Stissing House -- March 2009 (dt)
6.16 - 7, 7, 6.8, 6.75, 6.5, 6, 5.25, 4

The best part of the Stissing House? Perhaps it is the building and ambience. Anchoring one of Pine Plains’ main corners, the Stissing House struts its colonial-vintage inn status, with two tiers of porches, even more impressively so as evening descends and the lights illuminate its features. The history with Washington and Lafayette adds to the allure.
               And then one steps inside to the wide floor boards; 1700’s beams; a low lit interior redolent with the wood fire duskiness curling from the smoldering fireplace; and a classic bar area that leads to a warren of side rooms, in one of which we found ourselves ensconced around a half-oval, smallish table, enlarged by a couple of table leaves. The rough and rustic tables, the kind one might find in a well-preserved country home, lent to one’s envisioning tavern and inn life a couple hundred years ago. DP8 has dined at several other historically important structures and this one places near the top of our list for historic character.
               Adding to the ambience is the muted colors of the rooms (ours, in the descending dusk, I believe, was a yellowish cream) with the head-level placement of sconce lights, complemented by candles on the fireplace mantel and one or two recessed lights. The evening’s low noise level allowed for regular conversation to be easily heard. The walls were filled with Hudson River Valley-ish paintings, and the men enjoyed someone’s sense of humor in the Touch of Class drawing in the men’s bathroom. After the meal, Nolan led us on a tour of the upstairs, a more banquet-y type of space, with a classic view of Main Street from the second story balcony; eliciting comment were the floor boards that were two feet wide or more.
               Another best part? The service certainly is a tribute to the owners/managers (we think we met the owner as she gracefully seated us). Our waiter, Nolan, was efficient, informative, friendly without being cloying or distant, attentive at the right times, smoothly transporting dishes, foods and tableware to and away from us, with the assistance, at various times, from the water and bus persons. Plates were cleared promptly when we all were finished with the course. Service, despite the casual nature of Stissing House, was among the best DP8 has seen. One minor fault was the five-to-ten minute late arrival of the Stissing pizzas (not the waitstaff’s fault).
               Other service elements included the regular filling of water glasses, attention to Ken’s coffee cup, Nolan’s attention (and deleting from the bill) to a poor reception to one dessert, and turning the heat up just a notch when requested.
               As for food, it was hit-and-miss for the group.
               Deemed overall excellent were the appetizers. Don and the Debs savored the roasted beets topped with warm goat cheese and mâche; Ken and Kriss enjoyed their usual Caesar salad ...; Tim surprisingly ... declared the asparagus soup excellent; Judy’s crab cake with a cabbage prep got good reviews; and Chay found the red endive salad satisfactory although the hazelnut dressing was a tad bland.
               The “miss” part was the entrées, and that “miss” originated from the menu. French cuisine strongly flavors the menu, especially with game (pheasant, duck, etc), so much so that DP8 considered the decidedly American menu touch of burgers and pizza, throwing us off balance and showing up in our choices. Even though two entrées were beef, we avoided the game birds, the baby chicken, the salmon, and so on. Thus, we resorted to the Stissing pizza, a wafer thin crust topped with fresh Parmesan Reggiano, paper thin purple potatoes and truffle oil (both Don and Deb K thought ordinary-to-good, worth the try, but would try something different next time); the local, all-natural Angus hamburger and frites (Deb T, medium-well, discarded the bread and was still full; Kriss, well-done, as usual, and found tasty and filling also); the strip steak (Tim, medium-rare, deemed good, with a substitute order of mashed potatoes – one of his favorites, and a side order of peppercorn-cognac gravy which I liked but Tim did not try); hanger steak (Ken, medium-well, thought very good), the trout (Judy, thought it good, with the croutons, capers, and some other vegetable type we could not identify); and the Special Pizza (Chay, an appetizer became his entrée, with caramelized onions, bacon, which he thought good). Overall, the food was good-excellent but we found ourselves at cross-purposes with what we thought was a limited menu for the choices we like or are willing to try.
               The dessert also found us wavering among the French-styled choices. We probably wanted something a little more classic American but… Thus, we ordered the marquise au chocolat (Don, a chocolate & pound cake dessert, which was good enough by itself, barely tiptoeing in a puddle of cream – excellent although the cream was a bit bland); the crème brûlée (Deb, very good); chocolate ice cream (Kriss, an underwhelming portion for $6); sorbet and berries (Judy, a bit underwhelming); blood orange sorbet (Deb K, very good, and overpriced); tarte tatin (Ken did not like the preparation nor the “unsweetened” cream on the side, so we passed it around, resulting in a mix of opinions); Chay had his Sambuca ...; and Tim abstained ....
              The pacing for the evening was a classic one. Choice of water was taken immediately, with two baskets of bread following within 5-10 minutes. The drink order was taken (Tomaiolo 2003 Chianti Riserva; and Tim discovered, before opening, the delivered wine matched the wine list number of another wine) and drinks were delivered promptly enough. Salads came about thirty minutes after seating, and entrées came on the hour mark, which is about our leisurely comfort zone. From seating to bill payment took 135 minutes, a nice pace for us, and we added fifteen minutes because of the tour.
               The bill arrived, $102 per couple. Yup, the food was good but ordering such a hum-drum collection of entrées seemed more expensive than it should be. It was quite a contrast from our previous DP8 venture. If value is one of the rating criteria, the bill could have been a reason for a lower rating.
               We eased through Pine Plains, past the warmly lit inn, and out the twisty turns of Route 199, taking the alternative route of the Parkway, braking for the Route 82 exit and wending our way back home, just within the hour time limit of our rules.

The evening had started at the Adamses, with Tim and Judy presenting bowls of cantaloupe chunks and strawberries, peanuts, hummus with accompanying water wafers, cheeses slices, and heated portobello puffs, while Buddy, as usual, enthusiastically greeted us. The liquid refreshments included Caprestrano 2007 Montepulciano d’Abruzzi, Heinekein, a sparkling wine, and diet soda. We caught up on news, left at 6 pm, and readied ourselves for the hour drive we thought was awaiting, although one foolish reviewer thought Rhinebeck was a possibility, and, after traveling 9G and 199 out of Red Hook, proceeded through scenic, downright rustic countryside to the Stissing House.
               On the way, Ken showed us his new proficiency with texting, and we learned ....
               Conversations caught us up on ....