December 21, 2011. We arrived at 11:00 AM just as they opened for lunch and were greeted and seated promptly although we did not have a reservation, which seems to be encouraged. The restaurant has a wonderful cozy feel with high beams, lots of dark luxurious wood and the many well-kept antiques collected by the senior Mr. Kittridge. In addition to a rooster theme which is repeated throughout the restaurant, including tiny red roosters embroidered on the country-style gingham napkins, tractor seats and wooden farm implements grace the walls along with enlarged photographs of early Bernardston life. The staff was busy and everyone was cheerful. Our waiter introduced himself, offered us bubbly or plain water and told us the specials of the day. We started with virgin Bloody Marys which came with a slice of lime, one of lemon and one tiny green olive; we really missed having celery or some other vegetable to stir and crunch. I decided that mine was a bit too much like drinking cocktail sauce and I opted for a shot of Grey Goose vodka to spice it up-that brought the price of the virgin drink up from $4 to $11.50. We were also brought a basket of olive petard (bread), purportedly baked in their own ovens but it was not warm or particularly fresh.
We forwent starters and I ordered the Pork Milanese Sandwich for $14 which came on a ciabatta roll, with large-grained mustard, pieces of sautéed broccoli rabe and lemon caper Buerre Blanc sauce. The pork was described as "crisp breaded cutlets" which basically meant a pork-fried steak saturated in butter sauce. The roll became saturated immediately. The choice of broccoli rabe was odd for a sandwich as the stems were not easy to bite through but it had a nice flavor with the pork. Lastly, the mustard was so mild as to barely contribute any flavor to the sandwich; it would have been nice to have a nice hot bite to cut through all the butter. The sandwich came with a pile of house-made chips which were super crispy and sea salty and had that "nearly burnt" flavor, and a Real Pickles garlic pickle slice. Overall I'd give the sandwich 4 out of 5 points for taste (who doesn't love fried foods served with butter) but only a 3 for creativity and good choice of ingredients. The chips, however, get a 5.
Wifey had Pan Roasted Salmon with Lemon Chive Aioli, Sauteed Autumn Greens (endive) and Crisp Fingerling Potatoes for $19. The piece of salmon was a lunch portion, served on top of the endive with aioli sauce. It was a tad overcooked but overall had a nice flavor and a lovely seared crust. The thick-cut potatoes were delicately crispy and flavorful. The aioli sauce was just okay and the greens were bitter and not very tender. Wifey gives 4 points for this meal.
The service was fine, but our waiter did not offer or suggest any starters or salad; he seemed very preoccupied with the two large parties that arrived after us and it was difficult to get his attention after we got our food. I mentioned that we were celebrating our anniversary and our dessert arrived with Happy Anniversary written in chocolate on the plate and was complements of the restaurant. The deliciously light buttermilk cake was topped with poached pears and with a sugary caramelized crust on the bottom. A yummy caramel sauce was drizzled on the plate and a creamy scoop of hazelnut ice cream complemented the fruity cake. A definite 5! We enjoyed it with a strong espresso and a coffee with cream.
We suggest the check be presented in a more discreet way. Had the meal been a treat, the guest could have easily seen the total. and it came open on a small plate. So, would we visit there again? You bet, we want to try more on the menu. We are looking forward to trying Sunday brunch, some of their starters, and the artisan pizzas they offer which look big enough for two to share. They have a full bar which offers the same food as in the dining room and we look forward to enjoying it as a nearby dining and bar option.
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