Sunday, August 22, 2010

Restaurant Club

not shown: David
What's in a name? I tried to find some famous quotes but all the good "name" quotes I could think of conveyed the wrong sentiment. Sometimes what you call something is as important as the thing itself.

Restaurant Club. Giving our alternate month dinner party plans a title changes everything. Well ok, no it doesn't change everything, but it did change the dynamic for the better, almost instantaneously. In fact giving the group a name, a "restaurant club" changed my perspective on my social life. As we defined the perimeters of our club I came to realize I've been a part of a few restaurant clubs over the course of my life, we just never formalized ourselves.

Last night we went to Half Moon in Dobbs Ferry. It was an excellent choice. There were 6 of us, so we got a great selection of food, and being the bunch of foodies we are, our bread plates saw some serious sharing action... After we'd finished using the bread plates for the awesome artisan bread and homemade chili infused olive oil and fresh Parmesan cheese, that is.

I started off with my typical cocktail, a scotch and soda.  But Johnny could keep walking this time; I went for a smokey, peaty Talisker scotch, since they had it.  And I was not disappointed.  Scotch without smoke is like... Coke without cola.

Jennifer had read somewhere that the duck tacos at Half Moon were a star of the menu so of course we got a few orders for the table.  The duck was moist and flavorful and the freshly fried taco shells were delicate enough to practically melt in your mouth yet strong enough to hold up to the several bites it took to eat the whole thing.  Topped with fresh vegetables and a generous dollop of guacamole, I have to agree with past reviews and claim the duck tacos to be divine, a "must taste" indeed.

The chipolte caesar salad  was generously sized and full of fresh shaved cheese.  I have to admit I was a bit disappointed that for a restaurant with such a seafood-heavy menu, my salad did not come topped with anchovies, but the chipolte dressing was pretty darn flavorful, so I guess I can forgive the transgression.  Its getting harder and harder to find a proper caesar salad these days, but I am happy that salad in general is becoming a more focused course instead of the after thought is has been in the past.

I'd chosen my entree before even arriving at the restaurant.  I think in fact I'd chosen my entree before we'd even crossed the bridge.  Jennifer was on the restaurant's website getting us directions (they have excellent, detailed directions) and got distracted by the menu which she was reading aloud to me as I drove.  Once she said "skate" I interrupted and said "ok you can stop reading out loud now, I know what I'm getting." The only thing that could have derailed that plan would have char, but thankfully I was not put in a position of having choose - I really don't know what I would have done had I been faced with that choice. (Yes I do, I would have chosen the char since its more ethical... but dang I do enjoy skate.)

The skate was pan fried and topped with bacon crumbles and served on a bed of julienned zucchini.  A perfect dome of cilantro seasoned rice accompanied it.  Half of my dinner companions refused to try it upon hearing it was the wing of a sting ray (well a member of the sting ray family, actual sting rays are poisonous).  They were the same people who were more shocked then amused when I declared I wasn't sure if I liked the taste of raw oysters but I do enjoy the god-complex I get from eating something that is still alive.  But Jennifer and Marian tried it and loved it (and they laughed wildly at my oyster declaration).  I had to remind Jen she'd tried it (and enjoyed it) once before, when I'd ordered it at Bar Americain.

Jennifer shared with me some of her seared halibut - it was like butta;  melt in your mouth, perfectly cooked - just golden on the outside, a perfect smooth white inside.  And Annette shared a generous serving of her lobster macaroni and cheese, full of hearty pasta swirls and fresh mushrooms in a delicate cheese sauce.

As per usual I was in charge of the wine list (I'm not sure how I've become the sommelier amongst my friends, but I've gotten pretty good at it) and I was very happy with the selection available, and the prices.  There were several pages of wines, and they were all very affordable.  I chose for us a bottle of Michel Torino “Don David Reserve” `07, a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina (my apologies to my Facebook friends, to whom I announced I'd had a Chilean wine).  It delivered on its promise of being robust and it took on a slightly spicy flavor in conjunction to the meal, and at only $32 a bottle, we didn't even blink an eye at ordering a second.

Although full to near capacity, one simply cannot stop such a meal as we were having without a bit of dessert.  In for a penny, in for a pound - if you're going to feast, feast away!  Jennifer and I decided to share the peach and blueberry crumble, topped with vanilla ice cream.  I didn't try any of the flourless chocolate tortes ordered by Marian & Annette, and David, but I will say they looked wonderful.  The fruit in our crumble was obviously fresh and the oatmeal topping was the perfect temperature barrier between the steaming hot fruit and the ice cream.  Between the two of us we ate every last scrap off our dish.

It was a wonderful meal, with wonderful company, and now with a formalized agenda.  Our restaurant club meets every other month, with the restaurant choice being a rotation amongst the group members.  And although we established the guidelines while at this meal, it still very much qualified financially.  I suggested the price gauge be we must be able to order 3 courses, 1 cocktail and split a bottle of wine for under $100 per person (including tax and tip).  Our meal at half moon came to $85 each - not bad for a 4 hour feast paired with great conversation.

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