Archive for category Family Dining
Matt’s Blackboard, Rochester, MA
Posted by Gina and The Big Dog in Family Dining, Inexpensive Dining, Outdoor Dining, Restaurant Review on December 5, 2013
Gina and the Big Dog are notoriously particular. People know that if they recommend to us that we try the chicken wings at some remote location in rural Rochester, those chicken wings had better be outstanding.
In this case, our friend Timmy the plumber was not an entirely trustworthy reference, so we did some additional research before making the journey. And honestly, the awful reviews for this place made us intrigued. “Totally forgettable”? “Portions were a little small”? “Service was terrible”? “Food is meh”???
Having had a week of horrific restaurant experiences, starting with a Saturday night debacle with our friends Mary and Jim at the East Bay Grille in Plymouth that was inexcusably awful, we were kind of psyched up for another train wreck. You, our loyal Chow readers, hear about our good experiences, but to avoid libel and profanity issues, the bad experience stories are related verbally to a small group of insiders. And those are fun too.
We found Matt’s Blackboard in the antique strip mall that constitutes Rochester’s sole commercial activity around 3 p.m. on a sunny Friday. At that hour, we were surprised to find groups of diners already seated, and others arriving shortly after we did. We took seats at the bar, whose elevated height obscures its essential diner vibe, with an expansive view of the kitchen.
They’re not kidding about the blackboard thing. The restaurant has a serviceable menu of pedestrian offerings, but the blackboard offers an intriguing window on a culinary imagination that made us want to sit and sample all afternoon.
We started by sharing a house salad. We believe, as you know, that the quality of the house salad is almost invariably an indication of the quality of the food overall. This salad was extraordinarily good. It consisted of crisp, mild mesculun greens, slices of English cucumbers, sliced red onion, and sliced small cherry tomatoes, with what we guessed were chunks of delicious house-made bread turned into croutons. The salad was good, but the dressings were outstanding. Our server brought out little containers of both the balsamic vinaigrette and the roasted garlic parmesan dressing, to avoid any fisticuffs among us; Gina tucked away her leftover parmesan to bring home, and the Big Dog slid his balsamic across the bar, to make sure it went home too.
We both ordered blackboard specials for lunch.
Gina chose the lobster roll and clam chowder ($15.99). The chowder was good, but the lobster roll was the most delicious non-Connecticut (hot and buttered) version she’d ever had. A light hand with the mayonnaise, a strong knife on the celery, and a good fistful of fresh parsley, tossed with delicious fresh lobster chopped to a manageable size, made a salad stuffed into a buttered and grilled hot dog bun. Textbook — cookbook — perfect. Add your lettuce or capers or tarragon if you want, but this pristine version of the classic can’t be beat.
The Big Dog selected a fried clam plate ($16.99). He said the whole-belly clams were chewy, but interestingly, they all disappeared pretty quickly, and Gina thought they were delicious, especially with the silky house-made tartar sauce. The Big Dog said the cole slaw was too liquidy, but interestingly, Gina didn’t get even a bite. The french fries were okay and there were lots left over.
Seats in the small dining area are likely nice. The half dozen bar seats, as we witnessed, may provide a bit too intimate view of the kitchen.
We thought the food was great, the service was very good, and the atmosphere was very pleasant on a Friday afternoon., We will definitely return to Matt’s Blackboard.
And it’s an important lesson for all of us. Cranky diners are the ones who tend to comment on the internet, and they aren’t always to be believed.
565 Rounsville Road, Rochester, MA
Bittersweet Farm Tavern, Westport, MA
Posted by Gina and The Big Dog in Family Dining, Pub, Romantic Dining on February 23, 2013
On a snowy winter night, there’s little more welcoming than a basement tavern with a roaring fireplace, dark wood decor, an attentive bartender, the soft murmur of quiet conversations, and excellent food.
Bittersweet Farm Tavern comes close to all that. On our first visit recently, we enjoyed a very good meal. The soft murmur was somewhat marred by the hubbub of a large party preparing for an event upstairs, and by a howling baby. The bartender may ordinarily have been attentive, but was distracted by computer problems.
But we would have to be pretty cranky to let those details spoil our evening. The food was well prepared using fresh-tasting ingredients, and the varied menu enabled each of us to choose our go-to favorites, the dishes we’re always happy to be able to order and about which we consider ourselves to be near-expert. We had a very enjoyable dinner for $100, including tip, with thanks to the Big Dog’s sister Kelly and her family for the Christmas gift certificate that got us out there in the first place.
The Big Dog started with an order of a half dozen oysters. The bartender gave him a choice of Cuttyhunks and Sakonnets and the Dog opted for three of each, to compare. They were easy to tell apart: the Sakonnets were smaller, sweeter, and maintained their delicate mollusk shape, definitely recommended if you ever get the chance.
Next up: two house salads, a medley of fresh mixed greens and other vegetables, with an excellent balsamic dressing.
The Big Dog ordered fish and chips, shown above, and said it was an excellent rendition, with perfect chunky cole slaw in a clever romaine bowl, and really good fish. Very fresh and very delicious, with a light batter. Those big flat fries are rarely any good, and the Dog would likely order something else next time to avoid them.
Gina’s choice was bernaise sauce. It happened to come with a bacon-wrapped filet, but the sauce was just as good on the accompanying broccoli, baked potato, and fork.
The menu at Bittersweet Farm is really quite impressive, with such a range of dishes that it’s difficult to choose. All the more reason to return.
438 Main Road, Westport MA