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New England Region Restaurants

Morgan House in Lee, MA

The Morgan House
33 Main Street
Lee, MA 01238

413-243-3661

In an old inn sitting right on the main street through Lee, Massachusetts is the tavern at Morgan House Inn. It’s small, with four or so tables in the front enclosed porch, as well as a few in the bar area. The bar only seats 8-10. There is a much larger area that they open for dinner. We had calamari, fried perfectly,

Yummy Calamari

with some parmesan cheese sprinkled on top and a great putanesca sauce. The tentacles were the best ever, and were absolutely impeccably cooked. Salads with some chicken finished the meal.  It was a very fresh mixed green salad with cranberries, pecans and goat cheese ( which we substituted for the blue cheese).   It was lightly dressed with a tangy vinaigrette.  This

Excellent Chicken Salads

was really an excellent salad.  This was a very good lunch.  We would certainly come back here, and probably will next time we drive by on our way to Albany or Cooperstown.  Built in 1853, the inn maintains many great original details. Ulysses S. Grant, George Bernard Shaw and President Cleveland all stayed here at some point.  Rob Titus, who first opened King

The cozy bar

Tuts tomb, held his first raccoon hunt banquet here.  That’s a bit of history you don’t run across every day.

We liked the tavern at the Morgan House Inn.  It serves good food in a cozy environment.  We can’t comment on dinner, but based on lunch it can’t be bad.  Our wallet is certainly out for lunch though.

Morgan House Inn is a good option for a casual lunch if you’re on the Mass Pike near Lee at lunchtime.  It’s also an inn, so they offer rooms if you’re heading out to Tanglewood or the museums in Lenox and Stockbridge.

A votre sante!

Davio’s at Patriot Place

236 Patriot Place

Foxborough MA 02035

508.339.4810

Having the whole family together for the first time in a while was cause to celebrate, and since we happened to be at Patriot Place for a New England Revolution soccer game the choices were somewhat limited.  We opted for Davio’s for two reasons.  First, Cheri and I had eaten there a few weeks ago and liked it very much, and also it was a Northern Italian steakhouse, and that reminded us of our recent trip to the Italian lakes. (you can read more about that trip here)

We arrived a few minutes early and were promptly seated.  The ambiance here is casually elegant, with

white tablecloths and crystal stemware to go with Patriots and Revolution game jerseys.  Here the sports fans who want an elegant meal mix with those just here for dinner, or dinner and shopping, and it all works.  There is no pretension here, at least from those we interacted with.

The kitchen is open and busy.  Wait staff are plentiful, and while they are very attentive they are not overly so, and they kept a nice balance throughout our meal.  On top of that the food was excellent as well.  Wine choices are plentiful, with Northern Italy well represented of course.  We opted for a 2010 La Spinetta Langhe Nebbiolo, which was quite nice with cherry and tar along with floral notes.  It was really a pretty classic Nebbiolo,young still but showing some of

that elegance to go with the long finish.  We would buy this for the cellar (and actually probably will).

For food we started with the mussels, which are done in a basil, mustard creamy sauce with plum tomatoes.  The mussels were small and sweet, as well as plentiful.  This is one of the better mussel dishes I have had.  We also sampled the Calamari, which was perfectly fried and light.  Some found it too salty but I thought it was on point.   Add in the kobe meatballs as well, and these were exactly what they should have been.  One person had the radicchio salad with orzo, and he thought it was somewhat bitter, although that opinion was not unanimous.

Dinners consisted of filet mignon, spaghetti with shrimp and hot cherry

peppers and the veal tenderloin with prosciutto and tomato basil risotto.  They were all well cooked, well seasoned and delicious.  Many clean plates adorned the table at the end of our meal.  We did not indulge in dessert, even though there were many worthy choices.  Coffee and espresso topped off the evening, at least until we entered the stadium and went into beer mode.

We very much enjoyed Davio’s, and our wallet is out when we are at Patriot Place.  The food was reminiscent of what we experienced on our recent trip, and the bottle of Nebbiolo brought us right back to Lake Maggiore.  We’ll be back.  It’s not inexpensive, but it’s not crazy expensive either.  This has been a very good restaurant both times we have visited.  I know there have been many negative reviews, but we’re not seeing it.

A votre sante!

Thames Street Kitchenthames street sign

677 Thames St, Newport, RI 02840
401.846.9100
BYOB

We met some friends this weekend in Newport at Thames Street Kitchen for dinner.  Cheri and I have never been here before, and one of the other couples had not either.  New restaurants can be fun, or not, but at least the company would be good so we would enjoy ourselves one way or another.  Overall we had a great time, but I’m not sure we would return on our own anytime soon.  This place has good points and not so good points, and they tend to balance out to a level that for us would not draw us back.  The food was very good.  The atmosphere was not great.  The location is not great.  The parking, especially in the summer, is a pain in the butt.  It is a BYOB, so that’s a big plus, and we availed ourselves of that feature liberally.  Here’s some notes on the experience:

The Place: the restaurant is a low, single story shingled building right on Lower Thames Street.  There is thames st frontlimited to no on street parking nearby, so in the summer months when the resident parking is in force it is challenging.  We parked about a quarter mile away on Spring Street.  Fortunately it was a nice night, but on a night with inclement weather this would be a rather large inconvenience.  Cheri and I arrived first, and we were seated at a rustic high top table that could seat 10-12, but which they had put a divider on and split.  There was a couple  seated right next to us at the same table.  I’m not a huge fan of this, and we were very skeptical right out of the gate.  The rest of the tables are across the front of the restaurant looking at Thames Street, and are very closely packed together.  This is a tight space, and it is also a loud one.  With windows all along the front and the big kitchen windows opposite sound tends to build here.  There were a lot of “What?” replies during dinner as we struggled to maintain conversation without yelling.  The view out the front windows is pretty dismal.  You do not come here for the ambiance.

The Service: this was good, and the waitress was attentive without being in your face.  She quickly opened our wines and brought over glasses.  I could do with a more proper wine glass, especially if I’m being charged $5 a head corkage.  The food arrived together and hot.  Courses were well spaced.  All in all we have no complaints with the wait staff.  They were quite good, in a laid back but professional kind of way.

The Food: very good, at least from what I tried and saw.  No one complained about their meal.  There were ample choices on the menu, but no real specials, and we ended up getting three entree choices between the six of us.  Five different appetizers found their way to the table, although two of these were listed as “Sides” on the menu.  Here they are:

Appetizers:

Swiss Chard Pancake with Creme Fraiche – the person who ordered this liked it very much.  It was a good sized portion as well.

Beef Tartare with Caper Berries and Artichoke – this was mine, and it was delicious.  Not a huge portion of beef, but the tartare was perfectly seasoned and fresh.  I loved it.

Oysters on the Half Shell with Rhubarb Mignonette –  they looked good, and their owner proclaimed them as excellent.

Duck Confit with Grapefruit, Wasabi and Arugula –  this was a nice looking piece of duck.  My friend wasted little time in erasing it from his plate, so I can only surmise it was excellent.

Greens – this is listed as a side, and services as the house salad.  A little on the small side but the vinagrette was tasty.

Entrees:

Fried Chicken over Honeyed Spaetzle – I had this along with one other diner, and it was hot, juicy, flavorful and a rather large portion to boot, especially considering the tendency here towards smaller amounts of food.  The spaetzle was firm and tasty.  Cheri thought it was too salty but I don’t agree.  I don’t eat chicken skin very often, but I ate every bite of this.  It was really, really good.

Halibut with Spring Vegetables and Yuzu – this was a small fillet of halibut with some green vegetables, with peas being the most prominent.  The fish was well cooked and flavorful.   The peas were crisp and fresh and worked well with the dish.  That said, if I had ordered this I would have left the restaurant hungry.  It was a really small entree.

Scup with Asparagus and Fingerling Potatoes – this looked well done, and two diners ordered this choice.  They both enjoyed it.  The scup was filleted and there were no bones to contend with.

Dessert:  this was homemade chocolate and brownie ice cream, which was very tasty.  I could have used an additional small scoop or two.  French pressed coffee completed the meal.

Wine: this was good, as would be expected since  we all brought something to the evening.  A bottle of 2011

2011 Lioco Pinot Noir

Lioco Pinot Noir, from the Coastal region of Sonoma was rich and fruity, with surprising body and length.  This was a seriously tasty pinot.  It’s about $40 on wine-searcher, but it is probably worth it and will stand up to just about any other Pinot Noir I’ve tried recently.  Very tasty juice.  We brought a 2012 Casey Flat CFR Sauvignon Blanc and a 2010 CFR Estate Red.  A bottle of Grace dessert wine from Westport Rivers Winery finished off the evening.  That wine is made from distilled Chardonnay grapes and is very delicious, unctuous and long.  Good company and good wine makes for good times.  Everyone brought something excellent.

All in all this left us with mixed feelings.  The food quality was very good, but the ambiance and general aspects of the restaurant did not impress us.  I don’t think Cheri and I will be going back for a romantic dinner for two.  Maybe in November, when I can park in the same time zone, but probably not at all.

Thames Street Kitchen – good food, loud, parking issues and lack of location.  You’ll need to form your own opinion probably.

A votre sante!
Thames Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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L’Osteria in Cranston, RI

1703 Cranston St, Cranston, RI 02920

(401) 943-3140

We’ve mentioned L’Osteria before in our ramblings, and were just there again this past Saturday night.  It is a small, cozy Italian restaurant surrounded by others in the Knightsville section of Cranston.  L’Osteria is our favorite of the bunch.  We’ve been there thirty times or more, and have no plans to stop any time soon.  Why?  Let me count the ways.  First there is atmosphere, and we love the cozy, quiet feel on weekdays as well as the more boisterous bistro feel on Friday 0605131800dand Saturday nights.  Second there is service, and the waitstaff is attentive and very experienced.  They might make a mistake on a busy night but they’ll recognize it and fix it, and that’s all you can ask for.  Third is the food, which is flat out delicious and incredibly consistent, and I’m talking over ten years of being consistent.   Lastly I’ll mention the value, because I think it is very fairly priced, and they almost always have restaurant.com certificates available to even make it more of a value.  It would rank as one of our favorite restaurants, right up there with Gracie’s and Mill’s Tavern in Providence.  They are very different.  If I had to pick one special dinner it would be at Gracie’s.  But we go to L’Osteria far, far more often.

0605131800b

You might meet Mario, the owner, on any given night as he stops by to say hello.  Jack, Janice and Terry have been serving food and drink for a while and all know their craft well.  I don’t know the chef’s name, but whoever it is they are excellent.  The menu is extensive with many classics and some twists.

Setup for a large party.

You won’t find the ubiquitous veal or chicken parmesan, but you will find veal or chicken a multitude of ways.  Cheri’s favorite is the Chicken Puttanesca.  My favorite veal is the Saltimbocca, with a little prosciutto and mozzorella and a divine sauce.  They’ll generally give you a veggie and mashed potatoes as sides, but you can order double veggies (which we do) or a pasta side as well.  There are times I just make something up and they’ll sort of do it, but with the numerous specials and regular items it is unlikely that will be necessary.  Another favorite of mine is the Seafood Tagliatelle, but I have them put it over linguini instead.  If they have the lamb chop special always get that as it is an amazingly thick chop and well prepared.  Any time they have a steak special you can’t go wrong.

0605131800a

There’s a small bar but it is well stocked and Terry makes a pretty mean Cosmopolitan.  The wine list is not extensive, but it has a fairly good variety and there are a lot of reasonably priced choices in the $28- $45 range.  The Wente Cabernet Sauvignon was a good choice this past weekend.  At the high end of that range we prefer the Cesari Mara Valpolicella Ripasso, which is an excellent wine and very consistent vintage to vintage.  You can spring for almost $100 to get a Col D’orcia Brunello, but that is as big as it gets.  It’s not about spending a lot here, it’s about having a great meal.

The desserts are excellent as well, with the Tiramisu one of our favorites.  Our son loves the Torta Della Nona, which has a delicate lemon flavor and is a great way to finish a savory meal.  They’ll whip up a cappuccino or expresso, or regular coffee, to finish off the night.

You’ll need reservations on a Friday or Saturday night, as the restaurant is very small.  This past Saturday it was fairly quiet until about 7:00, but they were booked out, turning people away, and the crowd rolled in at 7 and filled the place.  If you go Tuesday thru Thursday you can usually walk in.  They are not open on Sunday or Monday.

After so many visits I can honestly say I’ve never had a bad meal at L’Osteria.  We’ve had a dirty glass here or there, and had to wait on busy nights, but that is something you’re going to run into everywhere once in a while.  Here you’re always going to run into excellent food in a cozy atmosphere and friendly, knowledgeable staff.   We’d rather go here than any place on Federal Hill in Providence.

Our credit card is out and is used frequently at L’Osteria.  This is our regular haunt.

A votre sante!

 

The Oak Room at the Copper Beech Inn in Ivoryton, CT

The Copper Beech Inn  |  46 Main Street, Ivoryton, CT 06442  |  Local: (860) 767-0330  |  Toll-free: (888) 809-2056 |

Website: http://www.copperbeechinn.com/index.html

We were on our way back from the Greenwich Wine and Food Festival and needed some dinner, so we took a short detour off of Route 95 to Ivoryton and stopped at the Copper Beech Inn.  This has been one of our favorite destinations in this neck of the woods for some time, and we have both stayed at the inn and dined in the restaurant several times.  In the past the food has always been good.  That was when they had both the formal dining room as well as Brasserie Pip.

The bar area

Now they have opened up a bit more space in what used to be the brasserie and have renamed the area as the “Oak Room”.  Basically the bar area is twice the size it used to be, which is good as it is a beautiful, copper topped bar.

Since we like bars we sat there.  Everyone was very friendly, and we settled in for a nice meal with a cocktail up front.  On the food side we decided to share several items to get a better feel for the Chef’s approach and decided on oysters on the half shell for me and lobster bisque for Cheri as starters, as well as some calamari.  As an entree the halibut sounded intriguing, so we added that.

The oysters were maybe the best I’ve ever had, but that means they sourced some nice fresh oysters as this is not a cooked item.  Still, two thumbs up on the oysters.  The bisque was good, but there was something about it that didn’t really register until later.  The calamari was very lightly battered and crisp.  It was also pretty much

Hallway high tops

devoid of flavor except for a high amount of salt.  The marinara was somewhat acidic and not pleasant.  We ate a bit but left most of this on the plate.  I went back to it a few times but it didn’t change, and was still salty and flavorless.  They get one point for perfectly frying it, but take away a bunch for everything else.  The marinara would return to greet us later that evening unfortunately.

Still there was the halibut, and that was perfectly cooked and swimming in a broth that tasted like a salt lick.  The salt overpowered everything else and we could not eat it.  So in the end we had a few oysters and some lobster bisque.  Afterwards we realized what had been off with the lobster bisque. Can you guess?  It was too salty!  We shared our displeasure with the waiter, and they took the halibut off the bill, but needless to say we left very hungry.  Later that night both of us had heartburn problems, something very rare for me.

This is not the same chef we have experienced previously.  Based on the meal we had, there is little chance we will return anytime soon.  It’s unfortunate, because we really did like the place, but this was not good.  It has a very nice atmosphere, and is a good place for a drink.  That’s about all we can say based on these dishes.  We might have just drawn the unlucky straw and hit a bad night or even a bad couple of plates.  You never know.

The inn does sport some beautiful rooms, complete with fireplaces and large soaking tubs.  It’s generally not cheap, but sometime you can catch a special deal.  If the restaurant has gone down hill then it loses a bit of its appeal to us, as we loved to hole up in the evening with a a good meal and after dinner drinks on premises.  Everything changes eventually.  Maybe it changes back.

So our wallet is closed for the foreseeable future.  If they have a great stay over special we might give it another try later next year.

 

Two Restaurants in Lenox, MA

ALTA

ALTA

34 Church St  Lenox, MA 01240

(413) 637-0003                      Website:  http://altawinebar.com/

The food at Alta was very tasty and represented creative dishes well presented.  One issue was heat however, with Cheri’s fish not quite as hot as she would have liked.  My dish featured seared scallops which were perfectly cooked, however they were placed on a cold artichoke pesto that seemed to suck the heat out of the scallops.  I think the play of hot and cold would have worked well,  had the scallops stayed hot.  unfortunately they were pulled to lukewarm.  Everything was delicious however, and simply putting the pesto on the side might fix this issue.  Maybe some kind of clever insulating layer, as simple as a piece of lettuce, could keep the temperature difference intact.  We shared our comments with the owner and he seemed to take the constructive advice to heart.  Keep in mind these are relatively minor issues.  We very much enjoyed our meal and will return to Alta if we visit Lenox again.  This is a restaurant on the edge of being truly excellent.  Tidying up a few loose ends should do it. We recommend Alta. Our wallet is open when we’re in the area.  You can visit their website here.

 

Bistro Zinc

Bistro Zinc

56 Church St  Lenox, MA 01240

413-637-8800                             Website: www.bistrozinc.com

Bistro Zinc is also on Church Street right down from Alta.  The atmosphere is clean and modern in both the main dining room as well as the bar.  We had stopped in at the bar the previous night for a cocktail and an appetizer.  Both we good, and thus we went back to see if dinner was at the same level.  Our reservations were early, at 6:00 due to a show that night, so we were quite alone in the dining room when we started our meal.  The room slowly filled up during dinner.

Service was excellent, and we really have nothing negative to say about any aspect of our dinner.  Cheri had the Beef Bourguignon, and I had the Steak Frites.   Both were well done, nice and hot, and served quickly.  While the dishes at Zinc tended to be a little less adventurous than the ones at Alta, the overall experience is very good and we recommend the restaurant if you are in the area.  Another Lenox restaurant where our wallet is open.  The bar is also a great place to stop in for a cocktail and an appetizer.  Try the duck spring rolls.  Their website is here.

 

Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro

201 Patriot Place • Foxboro, MA 02035 • 508.203.WINE(9463)

Website: http://tastingswinebarandbistro.com/home/

Recently Cheri and I were at Patriot Place, and we stopped in at Tastings.  This restaurant and wine bar is located right across from CBS Scene at the top of the giant stairs.  We’ve looked at the menu before, and were a bit apprehensive as it sounded very nouveau cuisine, which is not something we always like.  Still, we were armed with a Restaurant.com gift certificate, and how bad could it be?  Fortunately for us it was anything but, and we thoroughly enjoyed the restaurant, the wine and the surroundings.

CIMG1966When you walk through the entrance to Tastings you enter a warm atmosphere with lots of wood and a surprisingly larger footprint than you might think.  There is an ample bar area as well.  Throw in the patio that can be exposed to the outside in nice weather, or wrapped

Looking out from our table

in a heavy clear plastic walls with heaters in colder times, and there are a variety of places and settings within the single space.  We sat right on the edge of the inside space, looking out at the stadium through the open patio.  This was, needless to say, a very nice day and the patio was open and popular by the time we finished our meal.  Overall we really enjoyed our location though, as it was a bit more detached from the people going by while still enjoying the outside feel.  I don’t really think you can go wrong here.

An inside view

Now for the menus, as both the food and the wine menu offer a variety of choices.  Since this was a wine bar we thought we would sample a variety and both of us chose a wine flight.  I ordered the Big Boys flight and Cheri had the Spanish Armada.  While mine had the more unusual offerings Cheri’s was by far the better of the two, especially if you like bold reds.

For food we ordered and shared the Calamari, a Market Salad and the Steak Frittes.  There was some excellent foccacia bread as well as an amuse bouche.  The amuse bouche was a raw fig slice with summer squash,

Th amuse bouche

creme fraiche and chervil.  This was really good and extremely creative.  The Calamari was unlike any I have ever tried before.  It was breaded and quick fried before

The calamari (left) and salad (right)

being finished in a saute pan with pesto and pistachio, then served over a sauce that was essentially a very upscale egg salad.  It all worked wondrously and I loved it.

The Market Salad had a champagne vinigrette, greens, some small peach chunks and hot pepper slices.  I’m  not a huge fan of fruit in dishes, but Cheri really liked it.  Finally, the Steak Frittes was tasty and perfectly cooked, which is all you can ask for in steak frittes.

All in all this was an excellent meal.  We will definitely try Tastings again, and recommend it.  We’ll put some wine tasting notes up on the Tasting Notes page.  Here are a few spoilers:

2010 Volver Tempranillo (La Mancha, Spain) – 15% alcohol and a little hot for me, but Cheri loves these high alcohol big boys and this was no exception.  It was excellent with the steak.

2011 Zerran Garnacha (Catalonia, Spain) – the best of the night.  This is big and lush with deep, dark fruits and some pepper on the finish.  Long and full bodied, Cheri had requested I buy her some of this!

2010 Domaine Skouras “St. George Nemea” Agiorgitiko (say that 3 times fast!).  This is from Argos, Greece and is very unusual.  There is a candied fruit quality to it but it is not over the top.  It’s vibrant ruby red with medium body and a long, complex finish.  You haven’t likely had anything exactly like this before.

Our wallet is out and open, and we will go back.  I’m not sure we’re regulars yet though.

 

Milagro Cafe

142 Water St.Stonington, CT 06378          (860)-535-8178Website: http://www.milagrocafect.com/MilagroMilagro Cafe serves modern Mexican food in a cozy and charming atmosphere.  The inside seating area is tiny, with maybe 6 tables and room at the bar for four or five.  In the warmer months they have an outdoor seating area as well as it seems quite popular.  Open for both lunch and dinner they serve some of the best Mexican food we’ve had in the New England area.  They also have a great selection of tequila.CIMG1890CIMG1891We stopped in during our recent winery day for lunch.  When possible we always sit at the bar, and it was open.  Alex was with us and he and I both ordered the Crispy Shrimp Tacos (of which there were only 3 orders left).  These were crispy fried taco shells holding shrimp, lettuce, peppers, onions and assorted goodies with an excellent sauce.  They were quite tasty.  Cheri had chicken enchiladas and pronounced them excellent as well.  The tacos came with a carrot and red onion slaw that was really, really good.  They serve their entrees with rice and black beans (or refried if you prefer).  I’ve never had anything here I didn’t like a lot.  My only complaint was that I could have used one more of the shrimp tacos.  Alex felt the same.

For tequila, this time Alex ordered an El Tesoro de Don Felipe.  It was golden in color with a deep, complex flavor profile.  It was definitely a tequila, but smooth as well as strong.  We’ve had some of the more complex tequila’s that almost start to taste like scotch.  Not this one.  It was great and we’ve actually tried to find a bottle since then to no avail.  We have found some more expensive El Tesoro’s, but not this particular one.  We’ll keep an eye out.

Our wallet’s open and the credit card is out whenever we are in the area.  It’s hard to find good Mexican food around Rhode Island and Connecticut.