Archive for category Good Wine/Beer Selection
A. The kind of people who got the right seats.
Let us explain. We weren’t all that hungry on a recent visit to Woods Hole, so we decided to stop at the bustling Quicks Hole Tavern on a blustery Friday night for just a glass of wine and light snack. The first floor level was jam-packed, and we made our way up to the second floor where the only two seats available were at the chef’s table, a four-stool bar facing the cooking activity.
Gina ordered a Terra Grande Portuguese blend ($8) and the Big Dog selected a Familia malbec ($9). Both were good wines we hadn’t tried before.
As we perused the menu, waitstaff serving both floors, and likely the floor above us too, dashed in beside us to pick up orders. And 90 percent of them were burgers, even though there was no mention of burgers on our menu. Burgers on plates, burgers in boxes, veggie burgers with Harvarti, burgers with salads, burgers with little tin cups of crispy fries, etc., etc. — they all went flying by.
We finally asked, and learned that burgers could only be ordered on the first floor of the restaurant. We briefly contemplated calling in an order to go from our seat next to the spot where they were dispensed, but we opted instead for an appetizer they call “pig candy” ($9) four slices of pork belly on a sweet potato puree. They were awesome.
But back to our review.
We watched as the four men in the kitchen braised lamb shanks, grilled steaks, sauteed juliennes of vegetables, pan-roasted chickens, and fried, then filled, little homemade donuts they put in a paper bags. We watched them test beef for doneness with a finger (a trick the Big Dog swears by). We watched them navigate the tiny space with nary a bump, criss-crossing paths as if they had done the dance a hundred times before.
Interestingly, we also watched as the line of cars waiting to board the Martha’s Vineyard ferry started to move, and the anxiety level among the waitstaff increased palpably. Not so the kitchen staff. If the customer wanted chicken on his kale salad AND wanted to make the ferry, he should have ordered three minutes earlier. The customer knew that too, and shook off the waitstaff apologies as he grabbed his bag of takeout.
Quicks Hole offers an ever-changing charcuterie and cheese board, with three choices for $17, five for $22, and seven for $26. The choices looked interesting on the blackboard, and the board of three we saw looked like a generous serving for two people with all its accompaniments. We’ll likely try that on our next visit.
But watching the professionalism of the kitchen staff, we’re certain we’ll enjoy any selection from any of the restaurant’s menus. We look forward to returning.
6 Luscombe Ave., Woods Hole, MA
There are likely many great restaurants in Fall River, but we stumbled across one that we would recommend for any occasion: date night, snack while passing through, impressing clients or in-laws, lunch with Gramma (or Vovo), drinks with the gang, or, as in our case, to celebrate the Big Dog’s upcoming birthday.
On a recent mid-week, mid-afternoon visit to the usually busy Sagres, we were lucky enough to be served by a bartender, Raquel, who was willing and able to guide us through the choices on the menu… and some choices only available to those in the know. We emphasize that at regular mealtimes, waits are long, parking is scarce, and the experience at Sagres will be very different from ours. You know we always recommend late lunch/early dinner if you really want to enjoy the food, and our experience at Sagres should show why.
We struggled with the wine list for a bit, then Raquel stepped in with a taste of the house Portuguese red (not to be confused with any of the house American reds). It’s Parras Vinhos 2014 Castelo do Sulco Reserva Red, and subsequent research (89 Wine Enthusiast points) suggest it’s a steal at $25 a bottle.
We each chose one of the soups available for $4 for a hearty bowl. The Big Dog’s Caldo Verde was a creamy potato broth with kale and slices of linguica. Gina’s Sopa Portuguesa was a hearty blend of chopped vegetables in a tomato broth. We liked them both, and particularly enjoyed the Portuguese “pop” rolls that came alongside.
The Big Dog ordered one of a half dozen lunch specials: Peixe Racheado, fresh cod with a shellfish stuffing, served with the day’s vegetables, rice, and a couple of boiled potatoes ($21). The generous serving of cod was outstanding; the blend of broccoli, carrots, and green beans perfectly cooked; and the potatoes and rice were very good. Both of us liked the taste of the stuffing but were put off by the goopy texture, and we were kind of surprised by the lack of discernible seafood in it.
Gina was unable to decide on an entree, and once again Raquel was there to help, telling us that not only was the shrimp mozambique available as a dinner, but we could do half shrimp and half scallops. Sold, at $19. Gina’s selection came with the vegetables and a good green salad, tossed with oil and vinegar. It was a yummy, spicy take on mozambique sauce, and while the shellfish were a tad overcooked, anyone who enjoys mozambique sauce will love this dish.
As if all this wasn’t enough, we split a delicious Três Delicioso ($7), a new offering, known only to Raquel, featuring a layer of custard, a layer of chocolate mousse, a layer of whipped cream, and a coating of cocoa. Raquel brought us a takeout container for what we couldn’t finish, to tuck in the bag with the rest of our take-away, but we blasted through this enjoyable dessert, leaving only a pile of ashes where the decorative mini-trifle bowl had been. (Not entirely true, but we were unstoppable.)
Sagres is a white-tablecloth restaurant in a blue-collar neighborhood. Its decor is beautiful, food excellent, and, if our experience was any indication, its service is beyond outstanding. We will gladly return.
177 Columbia Street, Fall River
A. The kind of person who wants a seat at the fabulous new restaurant at the Sandwich Marina.
Gina and the Big Dog planned a lunch visit to Fishermen’s View, only to find that this beautiful new spot at the Cape Cod Bay end of the Cape Cod Canal didn’t open until 3 p.m. We enlisted reinforcements for another day and concluded that a mid-afternoon visit would be the best approach, given the many somewhat agitated comments online about long waits for dinner.
The four of us were seated on the deck overlooking the marina. We saw no land mass on the horizon there but knew the next stop was Orleans on the Cape, and after that, somewhere in Portugal. The view of boat traffic on an early fall afternoon was entertaining and relaxing.
The restaurant is family owned and operated, and co-exists in its sleek new space with a fish market. We felt like we learned everything we needed to know about the business during our first visit, when we sat at the crowded bar, marveled at the view, ordered a glass of wine and insisted that’s all we wanted, and we were still treated to a basket of the restaurant’s outstanding herby cornbread with sweet butter.
During our more recent visit with friends, the cornbread was back, and once again set the tone for what was to come. We all loved it.
After the bread, we started with a half dozen Wellfleet oysters ($2.50 each) for the gentlemen and a buffalo cauliflower appetizer ($8) for the table. The former were perfectly shucked and served with a trio of sauces. The latter was a linear arrangement of cauliflower florets that were deep fried and tossed in the familiar chicken wing sauce, then garnished with a Great Hill Blue cheese dressing and carrot ribbons. It’s a tasty, classy, somewhat healthy twist on the traditional bar snack, and a pretty hearty serving for the price.
The Big Dog ordered a burger ($11) with guacamole ($2) and chose potato salad from the extensive list of sides. It was good, but with its two angus patties, onion, “yellow cheese,” and puffy bun, it was just too tall to be easily eaten.
Gina can’t pass up a beet salad, so ordered this one ($11) with a Jonah crab “cocktail” topper ($9). She later likened it to a Twinkie, with a delicious muddled kale in lieu of creamy filling, and crunchy quinoa in lieu of yellow cake. And smokey roasted corn, and crisp pepitas, swirls of pickled onions, and sweet chunks of red beets, all topped with cotija cheese. The crabmeat came naked in a mound on the side. Don’t order this expecting a light meal — it was hearty and filling.
Our friends made their choice from the short but varied list of entrees: the pan-roasted halibut ($28) (shown), whose pancetta and red pepper sauce added a smokey flavor; and the skirt steak ($22), arriving as rare as hoped for, atop a fig risotto.
Gina and the Big Dog opted for a bottle of Josh cabernet ($34), while our friends enjoyed a pinot noir and a sidecar, whose amber color warmed our table.
Our server, who was personable but not to the point of introducing herself, was professional and capable. The food was very good to excellent, the venue comfortable yet sleek, the view was unparalleled, and for all that, the prices were surprisingly reasonable. We look forward to returning in the off-season, when we might be able to enjoy dinner at dinnertime.
20 Freezer Road, Sandwich
We recently had our first meal, and possibly our last, at Stomping Grounds. The food was excellent and inventive, and the outside seating atmosphere was as expected when along Main Street in Buzzards Bay, but the service was so flawed that under ordinary circumstances we would not provide a review, especially without a second visit.
However, we concluded that there are so few optimal days, weather-wise, for a restaurant with outdoor seating in our region, so when those optimal days occur, we have every reason to expect the restaurant staff to be on its “A” game. We visited Stomping Grounds on what had to be one of the nicest Saturday afternoons this summer, and we didn’t expect the 150-minute ordeal it became.
First, the good news: the Stomping Greens salad ($12) is hands-down one of the better salads we’ve had this year. It included generous additions of sliced green grapes, toasted pine nuts, chick peas, and roasted brussels sprouts. We marveled at how much prep time that dish must have taken, and wondered why no one else had come up with this delicious combination. It’s tossed with a light lemony parmesan dressing that makes all the ingredients sing. Twelve dollars for a salad? When your licked-clean plate is taken away from you, we promise, you will be thinking you got a great deal.
We also ordered an appetizer called “Spuds MacKenzie” ($8), described as “our twist on a classic favorite and a must try.” We did try, and while we have no clue what “classic favorite” this was twisting and found the presentation kind of weird, we liked it. Thin wedges of roasted red bliss potatoes were served with a a little bowl of dipping sauce that included gorgonzola blended with ground walnuts and bacon. Gina initially objected, saying it was too rich, but in no time was slathering it on the end of her salad.
We also enjoyed the Mediterranean Fish Stew ($16), another unexpected bargain. Served in an oversized bowl — too big, really, and it was difficult to get the spoon at the right scooping angle as a result — the soup had a rich tomato broth in which we found giant shrimp, scallops, tuna, mussels, carrots, celery, and potatoes. It came with grilled pita bread with a subtle curry topping, excellent to dip into the soup. This was Gina’s entree, and she took half home after sharing much with the Big Dog.
The Dog’s lunch was a Buzzards Bay Reuben ($10), which seemed like a regular Reuben. There’s a choice of corned beef or turkey, and it comes with Cape Cod brand potato chips and some crisp, fresh, slaw made of red and green cabbage.
We ordered a bottle of Josh Cellars cabernet ($34), as it’s one of our favorites, and this proved to be a wise move, because we were able to pour ourselves a second glass while we were waiting for our food to arrive.
It took a bit for our waitress to make her way to our table, and she apologized excessively for the delay, and then for the fact that she had not brought menus. When that finally happened, we selected the Josh from the short but carefully considered list of beer and wine options, plus artisanal spirits. Soon, the wine was delivered, opened, and ceremoniously poured by a young man in a grubby tee-shirt who we assumed to be a bus boy but who we later learned was the chef-owner. Note to chefs everywhere: Call us old fashioned, but we’ve chosen to spend a special occasion with you, and we think you should be dressed as if it’s a special occasion for you too. We want to believe you’re working magic in the kitchen, and if you feel more comfortable wearing a stained hoodie or a flour handprint on your pants, please don’t dash our illusions — stay in the kitchen.
(Rant over. You know we believe that chefs and other restaurant staff are the hardest-working humans and we hate to criticize them.)
Our appetizers were delivered with another round of apologies, and this time, the Big Dog stepped in and asked the waitress to stop doing that. We were enjoying a relaxing afternoon on a beautiful patio with a nice glass of wine, and the waitress’ implication that something was going terribly wrong was detracting dramatically from our enjoyment. The young couple sitting near us snickered audibly, clearly having thought the same thing.
Twenty minutes later, with the sun beating down mercilessly, the wine bottle nearly empty, and our entrees yet to arrive, we regretted saying anything. The waitress returned again empty handed, said she really needed to apologize now, and blamed someone else for losing our order.
Entrees arrived, we thought they were excellent, packed half for home, and that was that.
We realized, driving away, why this scene seemed not just unpleasant but inappropriate: because in the universal language of restaurants, the second “I’m so sorry” is followed immediately by, “… Save room for one of our outstanding desserts, on the house!” or “… We’ve taken that weird potato thing off your bill.” None of that here.
Will we return? Too soon to tell. The food was excellent, but the fact remained that we spent $99, with beverage, tax, and tip (yes, 16.5 percent despite the flaws, mostly because Gina is not good at math) on a lunch that consisted of soup and salad, a sandwich, and an appetizer. We thought the food was a great value, but we did not get anything close to hundred-dollar service.
Generally speaking, it’s our kind of place Stretched along scenic Shore Road is first a wholesale fish market, then a retail market, then a room for takeout, then a delightfully rustic dining room, then a pub area with a handful of hightop tables on one side and a copper-surfaced bar on the other, then an outdoor patio, then the brackish Back River, which flows forcefully to and from Buzzards Bay with each tide.
Some come for the lively bar scene with periodic live music, some for the off-the-boat fresh fish in the market, some for the reasonably priced yet inventive meals in a dining room that’s as comfortable for toddlers as for Gramma.
We come for the water fowl, and we’re never disappointed.
Sure, the fish tacos featuring corn and black bean salsa ($12) are excellent. We love the beet napolean salad ($9) a composed structure of beets with blue cheese and not much else. The seafood stew ($8 for a 12-ounce cup) is rich and creamy, and the lobster roll ($21, but often available as part of a lunch special) makes you glad you live in New England even when it snows every day for two months. We like our Cabernet Sauvignon, and they have two good ones by the glass: Josh ($9) and Five Rows ($7).
But if you have any interest in wildlife, you’ll want to visit the Lobster Trap for lunch or an early dinner during the summer, and the food will take a back seat to the scene playing out before you at the bar.
The Back River is a tidal estuary which flows into a protected area known as Phinney’s Harbor. During our visits, we’ve watched heron, egrets, osprey, swans, hooded mergansers, buffleheads, black ducks, and more. Most recently, we watched two flocks of Canada geese converge upon one another as if they were playing out a scene from “West Side Story.” The undertow is vicious, and the birds take full advantage, propelled inland under Shore Road, then bobbing back under the railroad bridge.
Others, we’re sure, come for the unusually pleasant staff. This being a seasonal community — one we tend to avoid in the season — many patrons are greeted with a cheerful, “When did you get back!?”
During our most recent lunchtime visit, we experienced a rare misstep: the oversized “house-made brioche croutons” accompanying the caesar salad were like bricks. The Big Dog’s topping of very good steak tips saved his salad, and Gina thought the classic dressing on her side version offset the crouton debacle. And the slightest expression of dismay on our part drew effusive apologies from our server, and complimentary wines for each of us. Things go wrong even at the best establishments, and the front-line staff’s handling of a complaint makes the difference between a customer who won’t return, and one who enthusiastically recommends the place. As we recommend The Lobster Trap.
The Lobster Trap
290 Shore Road, Bourne
Spend enough time in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts, and you almost become an honorary Portuguese citizen. Most local restaurants have kale soup and some sort of Mozambique dish on their menu. We like traditional Portuguese dishes and the zing that the colonies, notably Cape Verde and Brazil, have introduced.
That said, we must acknowledge that we’re a coupla pale-skinned Irish kids, and no Avo ever made us bacalhau. That can be good and bad when visiting an ethnic restaurant like Antonio’s. On the plus side, it means that we didn’t grow up with a single preparation of a traditional dish and find all others just plain wrong. Conversely, we don’t know when something has strayed so far from the traditional preparation as to be offensive to some.
Antonio’s has a very good reputation, and we’re pretty sure it doesn’t stray from tradition. It has been around for 25 years. At 2 p.m. one recent Saturday, every seat in the house was filled, which is weird — as you know, that’s our favored lunchtime, and we have never, ever, had to wait for a seat at that time anywhere, until we visited Antonio’s.
We were joined by Gina’s mom, brother, and sister-in-law, for a late Christmas get-together and gift exchange. They all live in the New Haven, CT, area, where ethnic restaurants are so common that you can choose not just the continent of origin, but the specific country — if you don’t care for the Ethiopian style of sambusa, you can find a Somalian restaurant instead, for example. But apparently New Haven doesn’t have any Portuguese restaurants, so our choice was simple.
The beer and wine list set the tone. Gina chose an Esporao Reserva from the Alentejo region of Portugal, while the Big Dog and Gina’s brother chose a Buzzards Bay Brewery IPA from the Westport region of Massachusetts. Everyone was happy with their selection.
For those new to Portuguese cuisine: It is carb-intensive. Most of our entrees came with a yummy yellow rice AND potatoes. AND a delicious bread basket of fresh rolls and bread slices. AND we ordered soups thickened by potato and/or beans. AND we ordered dizzyingly delicious custards in puff pastry for dessert. We were all ready to run a marathon the next day, and we’re sure some people do that.
The kale soup ($2.99) was delicious, but Avo would probably be opposed. Most of the preparations we’ve seen feature an oily beef broth with red kidney beans, sliced kale leaves, and hunks of chourico. This soup base was velvety, creamy, and thick, unlike anything we had seen. There were white AND red beans in evidence. AND macaroni. AND we’re sure there were some potatoes involved in the broth, all carrying on the carb tradition. This version had some strips of kale leaves, but the unusual addition of cabbage, cut from the stem end in a manner that invited the curly leaves to hang together in a very appealing way. We loved this soup, and will go back just for that.
We’ll hope for bread with our soup. The overflowing basket included some slices of white bread, and a half dozen “pops,” the Portuguese rolls officially known as papo secos.
Gina’s mom ordered the Chicken Algavaria ($14.99), and it stole the show. We should have known what was in store when the affable waitress brought the rest of us silverware, and Mom a shovel. The dish arrived in an aluminum vessel the size of a child’s wading pool. It was chock full of shrimp, littleneck clams, and chunks of boneless chicken tossed with saffon rice. We’re kidding about the shovel and the wading pool, but after Mom ate her portion and shared oversized tastes with the rest of us, she asked for the leftovers to be divided into two separate to-go containers, and the one we took home weighed four pounds. Four pounds! This was A BIG PORTION. At lunch!
Gina ordered the grilled swordfish ($13.99) which came with hunks of peeled white potatoes and broccoli, and took more than 60 percent of the fish and potatoes home. Big Dog ordered a lamb skewer ($13.99) which came with the saffron rice and a delicious salad, and took 70 percent of the lamb and rice home. Gina’s brother ordered Steak Tips Diane ($15.99), a creamy preparation that came with rice and french fries of which he took home 55 percent. Slim sister-in-law ordered a crab cake dish ($9.99) and managed to finish it, which made us assume it was an appetizer portion.
Bottom line: the five of us ended up with 13 meals averaging less than $6 apiece.
We all ended the meal with a Nata Custard Tart, a special for $1.25 apiece. We’re thinking it was a puff pastry pressed into a muffin tin and filled with a thin custard. When we come back for our kale soup and pops, please add one of these to our order. It was delicious and fun.
The decor at Antonio’s is pleasant and clean but not fancy. The service is suited to a white tablecloth setting, not the stacking-chair-and-paper-placemat scene we got. Overall, we felt our expectations were exceeded throughout our visit, and there is no higher compliment to a restaurant.
267 Coggeshall Street, New Bedford
Brew Fish opened at the site of the former Wave early last summer and we’ve made about a gazillion visits there since, each time fervently hoping that the restaurant would deliver the across-the-board good dining experience we know they can. We were consistently thwarted: delicious food but inattentive service, bad food but we were treated like royalty, sometimes the food and service were both just plain weird.
Our recent lunch with our friends Lee and Carl seemed like a perfect time to stop waiting and just do it. Carl is facing the worst kind of health problems. We’ve only known him for a few years and feel cheated that we didn’t have longer together, but we’re sure that even folks who have known him their whole lives feel the same way. We know that he is a musician and a windsurfer and that he worked as a letter carrier in Lakeville, MA, where everyone on his route knows and loves him. He explained what we were doing wrong with our hummingbird feeder and his fix resulted in a whole flock (see one above) invading our back yard, to our delight.
And he’s made us look a little differently at the notion of procrastination.
So we were bound and determined to tell about our experience at Brew Fish this time. And that visit was the best we’ve had.
Our friends started with cranberry juice, while Gina ordered a Bonterra organic cabernet ($9) and the Big Dog chose a Moby D from nearby Buzzards Bay Brewery ($5). Brew Fish’s emphasis on local beer and wine is a real selling point in our book, and we’ve found that indecision among those seated at the bar is frequently rewarded with a slew of complimentary samples. Also flights are available for trying the ever changing seasonal taps.
So now let us tell you about the house soup, because it freaks us out every time we go there, and this time Gina ordered it. It’s a steamy concoction of clams, chourico, potatoes, kale, and vegetables in a creamy broth. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it? It is! Gina ordered a crock ($6) and loved it.
But on the menu it’s called “ch’ale” and billed as a combination of chowder and kale soup. Yuck! This poor soup definitely needs an agent.
Anyhow, Gina partnered her soup with a side Caesar salad ($5) and was delighted that when she asked server Colleen to hold the parmesan hunks that so frequently mar a perfectly good plate of romaine and delicious dressing, it actually happened.
The Big Dog ordered a chicken parmesan sandwich ($12). It was a bit dry (“over cooked”) despite a slather of marinara sauce and melted cheese, but it was also enough for six people. He swapped out the fries for a side salad without any drama.
Lee ordered a spinach salad ($11), and got a beautiful blend of fresh baby spinach topped with bacon bits, goat cheese, red onion, and red pepper, drizzled as promised with a raspberry vinaigrette.
Carl’s Brew Fish Cheeseburger ($10) was piled high with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and onion, and served with a heap of pale but crispy seasoned fries.
The folks who own Brew Fish did an outstanding job of renovating the Wave space. The interior is sleek and urban, and on a previous visit, the bartender showed us how she can control subtle neon backlights behind the rough-hewn bar and around the tray ceiling.
During our visit with Lee and Carl we sat in one of the comfortable booths that surround the open dining area. We usually sit at the bar, where the comfy seats are among the restaurant’s great features.
The Wave was an interesting place that attracted grizzled locals, sparkly students, and families, and it appears that Brew Fish is pulling the same mixed crowd. We wish the owners well and look forward to the day when we can say with confidence that they have worked out all the kinks.
As for Lee and Carl, they’ve also introduced us to a whole brew of cool music over the few years, and we’ve made plans to join them to see a show at the Narrows Center for the Performing Arts in Fall River this weekend.
210 Spring Street, Marion
We arrived at 42 Degrees North, on Route 3A in Plymouth, on a warm summer evening to find the snazzy outdoor bar packed with patrons. We spotted a couple of seats but found them marked with cell phones, the new universal symbol for “I’m still here.” So we trudged indoors to the empty bar and nearly empty restaurant, and were glad we did. There, we got the full attention of our affable bartender, Brooke, and learned lots of things.
For example, 42 Degrees North is part of a family of restaurants that include two more located further up the South Shore area than we typically venture. They have a fishmonger who delivers a catch of the day and the kitchen is never sure what it’s going to be. They change their menu seasonally, and what we had before us was pretty new.
And very impressive.
The Big Dog spotted oysters on the menu and Brooke sped off to learn that they were, in fact, the product of our friends at Big Rock Oysters in Harwich. He ordered four ($2.50 apiece) and liked them a lot — they were meaty and characteristically briny, and were served with cocktail sauce and an interesting citrusy mignonette.
The wedge salad ($8.95) caught our eye and we split it. A hunk of iceberg came draped with two slabs of bacon in an odd presentation that tasted better than it looked. It came with a quartered tomato and more bleu cheese dressing than any two people should ever eat at one sitting.
Gina ordered the paella ($21.95), which is an excellent choice for people having trouble making a decision. A big bowl of rice, yellow with saffron and rich with little chunks of tasso ham, was loaded with steamed clams and mussels, just-cooked scallops, peas, peppers, and perfect little shrimp without the annoying tail shells that restaurants so often leave on. It was a hearty and tasty dish.
The Big Dog ordered the grilled lamb sirloin (also $21.95, which is about the average for the 18 very diverse entrees). The lamb was cut into pieces and served with a demiglace and a rosemary branch. He ordered it medium well and concluded that medium would have worked for this preparation, but enjoyed it.
The lamb was served with a side of quinoa laced with goat cheese that was good enough to try replicating in The Dog House some day. The crunchy little quinoas were bathed in a goat cheese sauce, with some asparagus and portabello mushrooms tucked inside.
To our dismay, we found ourselves faced with a very appealing dessert menu and were forced to endure the bread pudding ($6.95). Brooke told us that dollop of ice cream was house-made cinnamon, and that alone would be enough to bring us back to 42 Degrees North. We rarely order dessert (yes, you’ve heard that before) and this enormous, delicious, and creative dish will be difficult to top. No perfunctory BJ’s cheesecake here — the desserts are definitely given plenty of attention in the kitchen.
Throughout the evening, Gina sipped a Clayhouse cabernet sauvignon, and the Big Dog chose a Josh cab (each $9 per glass). When there’s a good selection of wines, we typically try each other’s and often make a trade, but not so this time — we each preferred the wine we had ordered.
This dinner was more expensive than our norm (about $70 plus wine and tip), and despite the large volume of food we brought home no leftovers. But the high quality food, excellent service, and attractive surroundings made it feel like a great value, and we highly recommend 42 Degrees North.
42 Degrees North
690 State Road, Manomet
We realize that at night, when the restaurant is likely more focused on music or beer, dining may be less of a priority. But on a Sunday afternoon, we were treated to one of the best meals we’ve had in New Bedford.
The Big Dog tried a couple of samples eagerly offered by our bartender, Donna, from among approximately one billion beer choices, and ended up with a Green Flash IPA draft ($6). Gina’s cabernet, conversely, was from the Walmart of wine ($5.50) and unremarkable.
We started with the falafel salad ($7.95). We received an oversized square plate with a dollop of hummus in one corner, a pile of chopped tomatoes in another, crisp and tasty sliced falafal pieces in a third, and in the fourth corner, the world’s most delicious creamy cucumber and dill dressing. Amid it all were giant hunks of hearty mixed greens, topped with a couple of pita triangles. The Big Dog turned his share into little sandwiches, bravely trying the falafel, which he’s disliked in the past. He liked this version.
For lunch, the Big Dog ordered the special whose announcement on a sidewalk sandwich board drew us there in the first place: a lobster BLT ($15.95). Framed within grilled sourdough bread, topped with artisanal greens, the yummy sandwich came with sweet potato fries.
Gina turned to the regular menu and selected the BBQ Sampler (a steal at $15). It included a half rack of baby back ribs, a little bowl of pulled pork, slabs of beef brisket, and tasty cole slaw. Remnants of the huge portion was just as delicious the next day.
During our Sunday afternoon visit, the small but eclectic crowd that included a fisherman, a college student with her parents, and a handful of 20-somethings, was charmed by or servers’ equally eclectic jukebox selections, recorded long before anyone but Gina and the Dog were born.
The Pour Farm Tavern includes an outdoor dining area in a spacious and shady alley. Inside, the decor is definitely 1970s Dorm Room, right down to the Led Zeppelin posters and vaguely foreign flags. We’re pretty sure no one goes there for the decor, and we suspect that few go for the food. But that’s a mistake — the food is delicious, and you’re certain to enjoy it.
The Pour Farm Tavern
780 Purchase Street, New Bedford
We had the good fortune of returning with friends to the Pilot House, and it was the kind of dinner where time flies by and next thing you know, it’s time to go home. Joining us was a crew of four people we like a lot. You know the drill: one minute you’re seated in a fairly crowded restaurant, and the next minute the waitstaff is scowling at you from a huddle in the corner, calling their boyfriends to say they’ll be late because a party of six just won’t leave.
It wasn’t that bad, but it was well on its way, on this Saturday night before the summer season makes it so difficult to find a seat at a really good restaurant on the Cape.
And the Pilot House is a really good restaurant. We had one service misstep and one dish described only as “good,” but our dining experience was otherwise excellent.
The Pilot House overlooks the Sandwich Marina near the eastern end of the Cape Cod Canal. One of many window seats at what may have been a wrap-around deck would have offered a great view of the waterfront, but we were seated by the fireplace, unlit during this first warm evening of the year. It’s probably a nice spot there on a winter evening, but due to the restaurant’s spare and airy decor, colorful in a classic way, it was a nice spot in the spring too. The restaurant’s design makes great use of varying levels, with the bar at the entrance at the highest point, and dining levels stepping down towards the sea.
The menu includes a varied selection of wines by the glass. We’ll spare you Gina’s anguish at the news that a new list is being introduced and the Albarino is being phased out (who phases out an Albarino in May!?) — but she was placated with a floral Chateau Ste. Michelle sauvignon blanc ($6). The Big Dog spotted a Josh cabernet ($9) and jumped right in. Jim ordered a Harpoon IPA ($5), which we all know is the perfect antidote to a day of yard work, and Mary the fruity Pilots Punch ($9). Dark and Stormy each ordered their namesake beverage ($9).
As an appetizer, Gina ordered the green salad ($3.95) with balsamic vinaigrette served on the side without asking. The salad consisted of mixed green leaves, with a couple of slices of English cucumber and a couple of grape tomatoes. Sounds boring, perhaps, but the combination of a snappy dressing and fresh, clean, spicy greens was spectacular. A flawless green salad portends a meal characterized by obsessive attention to detail.
Jim ordered a cup of the Portuguese kale soup, the day’s soup ($4.95). Anyone dining regularly in the Southcoast region of Massachusetts knows that kale soup tells you as much about a kitchen as a green salad does, and this didn’t disappoint: Jim said it was hot, both in temperature and spice.
Mary ordered a half dozen raw Duxbury oysters ($13.50) while the rest of us looked on in horror, having recently enjoyed endless oyster dishes during the Wareham Oyster Festival. The Duxburys were on the specials menu, as were Barnstable oysters provided by our friends at Big Rock Oyster.
The Big Dog ordered a caesar salad with anchovies ($6.95), and this is where the unfortunate service misstep occurred. As his entree, he ordered a monstrosity called the Seafood Pot ($17.95) off the appetizer menu, and it was hauled out as his appetizer. So while the rest of the table sat with its tiny soup cups and delicate salads and wee shellfish appetizers, the Dog confronted a giant trough containing lobster, shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, all in a delicious sauce with bread for dipping. Good, but it threw off the cadence of the dinner in a way that the staff should have anticipated.
As an entree, Dark and Stormy each ordered the seafood special: lobster ravioli generously adorned with lobster, scallops, shrimp, tomatoes, and asparagus ($26.99) in a white wine sauce. We all tried some and agreed that lobster ravioli is so often marred by a heavy sauce, but this was not.
Mary is a connoisseur of fish tacos and was pleased but not particularly impressed by the Pilot House version ($19.95), which included black beans and was made with mahi mahi.
Jim’s dish of mussels marinara ($19.95), were pronounced very tasty. They arrived as an enormous mound of relatively small shells concealing a plate of pasta in a sauce worth sopping up with the bread that came alongside.
Gina was pleasantly surprised by her baked scallops ($21,95), a dish that many restaurants badly mangle. A small plate of a dozen or so large day boat scallops, with crunchy crumb topping, were nestled into a delicious sherry butter sauce, and came with rice and crunchy green beans. The scallops were perfectly done, moist inside but cooked through.
We were kidding, in the beginning, about the waitstaff calling their boyfriends. The team at the Pilot House is professional and pleasant, and at one point a passing staffer alerted us that the Bruins were winning in a playoff game that we could not see from our vantage point.
Gina and the Big Dog enjoyed this spot in a different way when stopping in recently for an afternoon snack and beverage at the bar. It was evident during that stop that the Pilot House is the sort of dependable yet adventuresome restaurant where you go with people who are important to you. We did that, and we were not disappointed.
The Pilot House Restaurant and Lounge
14 Gallo Road, Sandwich