Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Still hot...but dead outside

The heat and humidity of summer is finally here. We complain all winter that we can't wait for summer, it finally arrives and we run inside to hide from it in the shelter of our air conditioned homes and vehicles or from the warm breeze of a fan. Well at least some people do.

On a hot and sticky night last week my wife and I headed up to Shelburne Falls to eat at The Gypsy Apple Bistro. I was looking forward to their quaint outdoor patio and the quiet streets of Shelburne. Without a tourist in sight and the streets surprisingly free of locals, who were probably home sweating in front of a fan, we parked right out front. I have been to Shelburne only a handful of times but was amazed at how quiet downtown was that night, especially for a Saturday.
We got to our table out back and ordered some white wine to fight off the heat.
We were the first table to be sat that night other than the two mischievous kids, I assumed were the kids of the owners or staff, who were lurking around and occasionally sitting at the table next to us. A fan was propped up in the window of the kitchen offering, I'm sure, little relief to Chef Michaelangelo Wescott working over the stove that night. If it was 90 degrees outside you know it was at least twenty degrees warmer in there, if not thirty or forty.
After going over the menu, and thinking to myself that I was thankful not to be the one in the kitchen that night, we made our decisions. We ordered the appetizer special a leek and smoked trout tart, crab cakes, potato gnocchi with mixed mushrooms and lemon-oregano brined pork chop. We were both starving after fasting (I didn't really fast, I just didn't eat much of a lunch) most of the day to save room for our planned meal.

The smoked trout tart and crab cakes came out first. The tart had a delicious flaky crust and was topped with salmon roe and creme fraiche. The filling was moist, a little smokey, creamy and delicious. The flavors were perfectly balanced with the buttery leeks, smokey trout, cooling creme fraiche and briny salmon roe. It was a home run. We both loved it. The crab cakes were fairly large and well seared on the outside. Filled with bell peppers, celery, herbs and clearly not lump crab meat, the texture was crispy on the outside but slightly mealy and mushy on the inside. Served with a remoulade, the cakes flavor was good but texture was a little off.

Our salads came next and were unexpected. The salads, comprised of leaf lettuce, cherry tomatoes, radish, beets, cucumber and "house dressing" were very good. All the ingredients were clearly fresh and local and the addition of roasted beets and radishes gave it more character than a standard house salad. The house dressing was light and tangy.

For our entrees my wife ordered the gnocchi and I had ordered the pork chop. My wife, always in search of good gnocchi, was excited to try theirs. I must admit I was too, I am often let down by heavy, dense and gummy gnocchi more often than not. Having formerly made gnocchi everyday for almost two straight years while working at a certain four star restaurant in Boston, I will admit I am hard to please with them but that's not to say I can't be wowed. I had fairly high hopes.

The gnocchi was served with mixed mushrooms (crimini, oyster, shitake and chanterelle), peas, parmesan reggiano and fresh herbs. The sauce was rich and delicious with a robust mushroom flavor but the gnocchi, much to both our disappointment, were dense. The flavor was good but they seemed overworked and slightly heavy, especially to be eaten on a 90 degree summer night. I will admit, from experience, that making GOOD gnocchi takes a lot of practice and can easily become overworked. The peas were fairly bland and mushy too, probably frozen over just overcooked. We were both let down, especially since the flavor of the mushrooms and sauce was so rich and packed amazing umami punch that was deep but not overwhelming.

The bone-in, thick cut, pork chop was brined in lemon and oregano and was served with green beans, potatoes and and a romesco sauce. The chop was seared with a nice crust on the outside and was cooked perfectly inside with a rosy hue. Much to my surprise you could definitely taste both the oregano and lemon from the brine giving the chop a nice citrus tang. The beans were cooked well, still crunchy and flavorful. The potatoes while good, were too few. One white and one purple. Yes, two little potatoes, each the size of a ping pong ball. Now I'm not one to complain about portions, especially too little starch since many restaurant load your plate with it whether it be potatoes, rice or pasta because its cheap, this was over the top. I wished I had more to mop up the delicious romesco sauce that was under it all. Easily one of the best romescos I've had, it was amazing with the pork.

As we rested and digested after our entrees we contemplated desert. The two kids were still scurrying around, now making faces through the fence unknown to the other couple sitting out there.

We decided to go for desert and ordered the malted-vanilla creme caramel. It was cooked perfectly. Creamy and not spongy, light yet not mushy. If not listed as "malted" neither of us would have ever known with no noticeable malt flavor. That isn't to say it wasn't good because it was delicious and the perfect ending to an amazing meal, but the malt simply was not there. Regardless we devoured the thing in seconds and quickly realized we were both incredibly full and satisfied.
As we rolled back through the dining room I was surprised that is was now packed having been empty when we arrived. Yet, when we got outside it was still a ghost town. Apparently even when the town is dead it's still alive at The Gypsy Apple Bistro which is good to see. A great little place, still putting out delicious food even in the heat of summer.
Happy eating!

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