Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Birch & Barley
So Justin and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary at Birch and Barleytonight. I mean sure he DID indeed promise to take me to the Inn at Little Washington if we ever did end up celebrating a 4 year anniversary but you know how cheap he is and in the end he chickened out so instead we ended up at Birch & Barley. Honestly I always feel like when I go to restaurants like the Inn where they charge you $170.00 per a person you are destined to walk away feeling disappointed no matter what they serve you because you KNOW that the ingredients for your food didn't cost anywhere near as much as you paid and sure you do pay the cooks for their service but you gotta ask yourself-can I really not replicate that in the kitchen myself? Indeed, I usually probably thought in a few causes (like the ceasar salad bite at Komi)I can't.
The thing about Birch & Barley is that they don't open their doors until 5:30 and when you have a 5:30 reservation that leaves you either waiting awkwardly out in the hall where there is no seating/space or going upstairs where the have their lovely bar/restaurant (owned by the same people) Churchkey. I was carded (at 5:15pm no less) before I was allowed into Churchkey in order to use their bathroom but they were nice and gave me some free water and a menu which I could peruse while I waited. The atmosphere was nice, nothing special and the menu was pretty awesome-I mean they had their own version of the Canadian pouttine (fries with gravy), tater tots, fried mac and cheese sticks, rissotto balls and various tasty sounding flat breads (which everyone at Churchkey and as I saw later at Birch & Barley-seemed to be getting). Who wouldn't want a flat bread with pulled pork on top? The bathroom was below par though since there was no hook on the bathroom door to hang your purse (even worse they have this ring that teases you and makes it look like a hook but after prying at it and mentally cursing at it for a few minutes you must give up and glare).
Birch and Barley has a much nicer atmosphere than Churchkey. The walls were all brick and there was this nice posh but not overly pretentious feel to it that allowed comfortably dressing up or dressing down for dinner-whatever floats your boat that night. I love how you can look back into the kitchen in between these stylish wooden bars from pretty much any seat in the house and watch the chefs hard at work preparing your food.
The waiter/waitress (we has 2 in one night) were not very helpful at all. They vacillated between what was better than what and didn't really give any good input on the food-indeed the first one told me to order the main dish which I and Justin didn't really like.
The bread they brought out might have been the best part of the meal. There were two of these hot fresh buttery pretzel rolls, two olive like brioche rolls, and two slices two slices of cranberry orange rye bread all served with butter and a spicy mustard. Mmmm. Nothing like good bread to start off a meal.
We got 2 appetizers (unusual right) because we were so torn-The goat cheese and potato tartlet an the risotto with goat cheese (you can tell we like goat cheese, no?).
The risotto should have been called Beet Risotto because it was most pureed beets, chunks of beets, some risotto, cooked greens and a wonderful scoop of goat cheese right in the middle. I really liked the taste of the dish and even though Justin doesn't like beets he liked this (weird because another appropriate name would be Beet soup).
The goat cheese and potato tartlet was more of a salad of mesclun greens with a few pieces of bitter endive, balsamic drizzle and a pouch of goat cheese geld together by thin slices of slightly undercooked potato. I do love warm goat cheese any day of the week and I did appreciate it here but I thought the plate could have used some sweet flavors to balance out the bitterness-like candied pecans or pears.
Justin ordered a tagliatelle pasta with rabbit and ricotta. The dish had a nice light sauce that was almost like chicken broth, the shaved cheese on top was very salty but Justin likes it that way and the rabbit was cooked nicely. I like the pasta but Justin was of the opinion that it wasn't homemade and therefore wasn't good enough for him-he was comparing it to the tagliatelle we had gotten in Italy and was disappointed.
My dish was a Mahi Mahi and the liquid sauce they gave me was kind of tasteless but then I came across some very small glops of thick paste which was orangey-which was what the sauce was supposed to be-and made the fish (which was a little fishy adn not as fresh as it should have been) taste better. There were more beets on my palte (so tired of them by then even if they were cooked well) and this awful bitter cabbage whose sourness wasn't made nearly palatable enough by a scattering of raisin.
The dessert was supposed to be a take off of classic name brand desserts like snickers bars and almond joys but homemade, there was also a awesome mint chocoalte pudding lollipop, two small raisin cookies with a cream cheese filling, and then a take on a hostess cupcake which tasted kind of like cigarrettes (ew) which was my least favorite of the bunch. Overall it was an interesting assortment of goodies.
In the end it was a nice dinner but I don't feel the need to go back to B and B. Churchkey on the other hand warrants another trip another time.