Old Mill (South Egremont) – June 2010 (dt)

7.23 - 7.8, 7.6, 7.5, 7.5, 7.25, 7.2, 7, 6

Yes, we liked, and enjoyed, and savored Old Mill. From entry to ambiance to entrées to service to dessert to cost. Every stage made for a worthy experience.
               First, the primary ingredient – food.
               The menu, I suppose, might be called New American, with a half-dozen appetizer/salad choices, about ten entrée selections, and about ten desserts, which might feel limiting, at first. It was, however, the evening’s specials that lit up the choices. Apparently, the specials change each evening, and we tried three of the four dessert specials (omitting only the panna cotta with strawberries), none of the soup/salad offerings, and six of us choosing from the entrée specials list (we did not try the sweet peppers with quinoa pilaf nor the lamb shank nor the rib veal chop, although a couple of us would have liked to).
              The first course arrived about a half hour after seating, and most of us, with one exception, stayed with the salad that is paired with the entrées. This salad was dessert-plate-size, filled with mixed greens, two or three halves of cherry tomatoes, and a generous helping of blue cheese (not dressing), unless one chose the vinaigrette. Basic except for blue cheese, the salad was a fresh and very adequate salad.
               The exception was the Caesar salad shared by the Monteverds, coming on one large plate and siphoned off onto another smaller one. Rating: very good.
               Ten to fifteen minutes before the salad’s arrival, one of the servers placed a wire basket heaped with artisan French-ish baguette, a wider loaf of softer bread, and thin and long bread sticks, accompanied by two small ramekins – one of butter, the other with goat cheese spread – and one larger ramekin containing an herbed goat cheese spread. A nice touch was the bowl of red and green olives. All of it was satisfying and comforting.
               Sixty-five minutes after seating, the entrées arrived. After having just watched a swarm of waitstaff deliver eight dinners to a nearby table within sixty seconds, we were assured a competently trained waitstaff would do the same for us. And we were right.
               From the regular menu came: two dessert-plate-size chicken breasts in the chicken parmigiana, with provolone and buffalo mozzarella, lightly slathered (oxymoron?) with a rich and creamy marinara, over capellini (Kriss: very good, excellent cheese, and a take home); panko-crusted rainbow trout, lemon-caper butter sauce & basmati rice, with lengths of green beans and carrots (Ken, Ken??: very good).
               The other six of us ordered from the specials list: the seared scallops, with thin diagonal slices of asparagus, cherry tomato halves, bits of crispy bacon over capellini (Deb T, Chay, Tim: all excellent, except the scallop portion was rather small – five somewhat small ones; one person thought the meal a bit watery); Chatham cod with roasted tomato slabs, beurre blanc sauce, and Yukon Gold mashed potatoes (Don: excellent, sauce was top-notch); roast whole Dorado, rosemary & lemon sauce (Judy: excellent, even with the bones; the fish was fresh, meaty and moist); and the three-cheese vegetarian lasagne with spinach and mushrooms (Deb K: very good). With the exception of the scallop portion, all was deemed tasty with excellent accompanying seasonings and sauces.
               The drink order included two bottles of E. Guigal 2006 Cotes du Rhone Rouge, a reasonable red, for six; a split of Prosecco (guess who?); and a diet soda.
               Ahhh, dessert. Again, the specials added so much to the regular menu. From the regular menu: coffee ice cream sundae with caramel drizzle, Callebaut chocolate sauce, walnuts & whipped cream (Kriss, wonderful, a visual display of artistry); chocolate sorbet (Tim, Tim??: excellent, and even Judy moaned loudly); and lemon meringue sundae (Judy, excellent, with layers of apt presentation).
                From the special menu: the Soco Creamery Almond Joy ice cream (Deb K, two scoops with a cracker, ‘yum’); poached pear with ginger ice cream and chocolate sauce and whipped cream (Don, excellent, with a satisfying mix of flavors, especially the bits of chewy ginger); and the apple-four berry cobbler with crème Anglaise (Deb T, excellent).
                Chay enjoyed his Sambuca while Ken passed. Tim had a ginger-lemon tisane.
                The dessert choices and quality were one of our top 10.
                The second ingredient, service, is competent and capable. Our server for the evening was Becky, who efficiently took orders, chatted, gave a humorous comeback as was appropriate, delivered courses, and was attentive to our comfort without being intrusive. Thank you for a job well done this evening, Becky.
                As needed, another of the waitstaff filled water glasses regularly and bused dinner ware away. It was clear that service is not taken for granted by the owner/manager.
                This was foreshadowed by our greeting to Old Mill. We were warmly welcomed (by the owner/manager?), notified that our table was being cleaned off, and that we could browse the nearby bar, if we wished. Within five minutes, he signaled our table was ready and we entered the main dining room. Whereupon, the same gentleman, in a quite humorous way, welcomed us once again to Old Mill, announced the specials, indicated there might be a chef working and drinking that evening, and otherwise disarmed us. We liked it.
                Especially noticeable this evening was a pacing of courses that was quite agreeable to us. Nibbling-food was available, not immediately but within a reasonable time. The timing of the salads’ presentation was suitable, as it was for the entrées. Dessert came a half-hour after the entrées, which was suited us. The timing for the bill was right on cue. From seating to leaving took 130 minutes – not rushed, not slow, just right, for us eight little bears!
                Ingredient #3 – ambiance, and Old Mill has this in spades, and heart, too.
               The exterior is an interesting contradiction. On one hand, Old Mill is a remarkably plain, old, weathered-looking building with a less-than-inviting parking lot. Still, there are a few touch-ups – an aesthetic sign, an inviting pergola, a framed space for a menu – that suggest good intentions.
               And then one steps inside. A narrow entry way, with pegs lining each side for fifteen feet, hints at a Shaker-style coat rack. The door to the left invites one inside to investigate the bar, with several bar tables for an intimate dinner.
               A jog right, then left, filters into the main dining room, and one is overwhelmed with the feel of industrial and colonial. The red concrete floor patch clashes, but also intermingles, with the pegged, wide board flooring. The first thought it is original but probably is not. Next is the ceiling with the ribs of beams overhead dividing the plastered whiteness. And that center beam that is two feet through.
               It was Friday night, and a busy night, with diners occupying the plethora of round tables, the center of almost all were lit by an overhead light, placed purposely for that purpose. Ten-spindled-backed chairs (and only ten) surround each linened table, and we were ushered to ours sited next to the center column which proved to be a hanging of four birch poles complemented with plants and leafy twines, serving to divide the room with one of the lightest touches possible.
               The round table was one of the smallest tables we have sat at but it was more cozy than tight, allowing each of us to hear reasonably well over the moderately noisy room. The table is double-linened, as we watched the manager perform that duty later.
               A white bread plate awaits, with a five piece “silver” setting at each. Glassware is among the classiest we have seen. Later, foot wide, crystal white plates with the inch and half rim continued the theme.
               The windows allowed the late evening sun to filter in until it set behind the trees by the stream, with full length, multi-hued curtains of a thick material – red, yellow, orange. Sconces with foot-high, frost-cover glass sat on a three foot piece of metal that anchored the wall visually. Walls were coated with a mix of soft white, cream, pink, orange-y, which, in the fading light and eventually the interior light, seemed to darken into a blush of flamingo-cream-sunsetglow. (It gives good competition to our last two visits – Stockade Inn and George Mann Tory Tavern.)
               Criteria #4 is value, and $104 per couple (including drink, tax, tip) was certainly within our average range ($90-$115 in 2010?), and was a speck lighter than we were expecting. Entrées were mostly in the mid-$20 range, so perhaps a consumer of a vegetarian meal might feel a bit of under-value. None of us minded having cleaned the plate and still not feeling overstuffed (and only one doggie bag).
               We exited into a night with hundreds of stars beaming brightly overhead, with Venus dominating the western setting sky. The lights of Old Mill had changed the exterior to a much kinder, more inviting look, and we headed for the hour drive home.

Festivities had started at the Teators, of course, since it was their pick. Our busy (bordering on hyperactive) schedules necessitated a Friday evening, and eventually everyone straggled in. Awaiting was a bowl of grapes, a veggie platter with dressing, a bowl of mixed nuts, and a chunk of sharp cheddar and accompanying crackers. A Cantina Zaccagnino 2006 Montepulciano, a Mumm NV Brut Prestige sparkling, Vendange white zin, and Spaten beer kept the food moving.
               Five cars meant a bit of logistical ‘figgering’ but we eventually dumped one car at the Adamses on the way there and continued on, and on, and on, until we crossed the NYS border for our first out-of-state dinner date (excepting Charleston, of course).
               The dominating topic at the pre-session was retirement, retirement, retirement, both the certain one (Don) and the possible (Kriss), depending on the incentive.
               Other topics, then and later, included the upcoming shower, the upcoming wedding, the party at the Adamses, kids returning home to live Mom and Dad, someone’s nubbins, health insurance costs, ..., the last day of school, and more. Somewhere, the whole table defended Ken after Kriss chided his “bein’ bad,” but we all thought he was just being Ken, and that was good. And we spent many minutes calculating our schedules for the summer with all the calendars out, enough that Becky even ‘complimented’ us on our organization (little did she know that was another name for flexibility).
              Dinner Date #91 was a memorable one, for company and food, with only a sore back to remind us why an hour trip is a long time.