Choosing Off a Menu-Things Said and Unsaid

My last night in Shepherdstown, I went back to the Press Room. Comparing menus with the Stone Bistro, I wanted to eat more of the things on Press Room’s posted menus. Besides, I wanted ramps.

THINGS SAID: The hostess wanted to seat me at a two-top right next to two women in a booth. I asked if there was someplace else, said I didn’t want to sit on top of the two. She said they had some reservations, but she’d see what she could do. I turned down a table in the bar and ended up at a two top in the small room, quite comfortable, where I could see into the big room. While I was looking the menu over, an older couple came in, clearly regulars. The hostess talked to them for a bit, then sat them in a booth. Not two minutes later, a party of four came in. The hostess, looking helpless, led them to the table in the bar. So I figured I cascaded the seating problems, grabbing the couple’s two top, filling the booth with two, and sending the last group to a window table in the bar. Oh well. Sorry.

THINGS UNSAID. No ramps, first off. My server announced himself by name and said he was there to give me outstanding service. We talked over the menu, debating the merits of the rack of lamb and the osso bucco special. “Our lamb is excellent,” he said, “But we don’t have the osso bucco every day.” I refrained from mentioning that I wasn’t likely to be back for another two years. “It’s so tender,” he said.

When trying to make a decision like that, I often check the sides—mashed potatoes and Brussels sprouts vs a wild mushroom risotto in this case—or try to divine what I’ll most want to be eating when the dish comes. What I wanted to say was that osso bucco is such a winter dish and with the 70 degree day we’d just had, I felt more like spring. But I didn’t, thinking the Brussels sprouts probably wouldn’t be fried, a current passion, and risotto sounded good. So I acceded to the osso bucco.

The meat was meltingly tender, but it was topped with some chopped sautéed fresh tomatoes that clearly hadn’t been cooked with the meat. It included onions, celery, and garlic, but it hadn’t reduced and the liquid watered down the risotto. Ill-conceived, I kept thinking while I was eating it. You want a long-cooked sauce with osso bucco. At least I do. The waiter put it down and vanished, returning only at the end to ask whether I wanted coffee. I suspect he knew they’d blown it. Perhaps they ran out of sauce, who knows

Still, the spinach and orange salad was delicious, baby spinach and juicy orange pieces with some of the candied walnuts I’d had a couple of nights before. And the strawberries on the creamy panna cotta were ripe and sweet. A major coup, I kept thinking. I even at the sliced strawberry garnish.

THINGS SAID AND UNSAID: The next night I had dinner at the airport. My sister met me there and we ate the steakhouse that replaced Legal Seafoods. I ordered the rib-eye, which I was unable to do without telling the story of the rib-eye I’d gotten at the Eastside that I knew was sirloin (no eye, no marbling, just striated meat). The waitress had asked what I expected. “A bone,” I told her. “And fat in the meat.” “All our steaks are boneless,” she’d said, and, rather than complain further, I ate it. Still bothers me, like many things left unsaid.

Anyway, Laurie thought about the prime rib. “It’s just a hunk of roast beef,” I said. She said she knew, but ordered it anyway. The ribeye had a bone, an eye, marbled fat, and great flavor. The prime rib was a French dip sandwich, sliced and not much of anything. The spinach and orange salad came with a raspberry vinaigrette and canned mandarin orange slices.

So, put the two nights together and I’d end up with one great meal. The moral, as if I have to remind myself yet again, get what you want and send it back if you think it’s wrong. And a little thinking ahead, about what you are likely to get wouldn’t hurt either.


Choosing Off a Menu-Things Said and Unsaid — 2 Comments

  1. guy at farmers’ market in NYC races over to a baby green selling place and urgently requests, “ramps? do you have ramps??!!!” and the laid-back chick who was tending to the bok-choy, the fava bean greens and the field greens for $4.50 for a 1/8 pound said, “no man, not sure. try bishops, but they go fast….” and the guy rushed off. i rushed after him and there was no ramps to be seen, or a bishop of ramps, for that matter. guess you gotta to go to the woods and pick ‘em yourself.

  2. Proving again, that preparation is everything. The rib eye and the maligned standing rib-roast (sometimes prime) are from the very same beef section.

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