Tuesday, November 08, 2005

A Nice Surprise

We spent this past weekend in the Poconos - the fall version of our every six months trip to Sarah's family's cottage on the grounds of Skytop Lodge. The weather was amazing, the trees were so pretty they were almost hard to look at, and overall the trip was predictably great.

Sarah's been hosting these Poconos trips for our friends for about six years now, and Cooper and I have been going for about four. We're such creatures of habit once we get there: Friday night we order pizza from Mountain Pizza (it takes a reliable two hours to arrive). Saturday we graze all day, eating whatever everyone brought or baked - and that always includes at least a little guacamole and some type of delicious bread. Saturday night Cooper grills burgers and Sarah makes tater tots and a Greek-ish salad. We all wash it down with tons of red wine (girls) or beer (boys). Everything's always super laid back, fun, and tasty.

Last fall, however, we changed things up a bit. We had a small group, so we decided to go out to dinner on Saturday night. We were pleasantly surprised. So this year, with only eight of us at the house, we tried it again. Around 6 on Saturday night (yes, early bird special time) we hauled ourselves down to The Cook's Touch in Mountainhome, about 10 minutes away from the cottage.

Walking in, it's easy to have low expectations. The Poconos aren't exactly midtown Manhattan. The clientele, as nice as they all seem, doesn't exactly scream "foodie." But there's actually a lot to be said for low expectations. As Doug's brother-in-law Chris said, post-meal, the quality of the meal was a really nice surprise.

I got involved in conversation (and my third glass of wine) shortly after the appetizers, so I didn't do a great job of photographing the meal. But I did remember to take a shot of Doug and Sarah's delicious artichokes:

Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

They look like sort of a mess, but tasted fantastic. Served warm with roasted red peppers and spinach, they were topped with a balsamic and honey reduction. I'll definitely try this at home.

Cooper and I shared oysters:

Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

The menu said "herb-crusted" and somehow I imagined they'd come in their shell, with a bit of herby bread crumble on top. I was a little disappointed that they were fully breaded and fried, but they tasted good anyway. the sauce doesn't look great, but it was good - a creamy blue cheese that did complement the crunchy crust on the oysters.

Come to think of it, "looks a little gross, but tastes good" pretty much sums up the meal. All of the dinners were served with a salad. I had a very good sweet and sour poppy seed dressing - homemade. About half our group had some sort of red meat for dinner (the boys and I). My filet was a nice cut, cooked perfectly. Unfortunately - and this was the only real disappointment I felt all night - my meat was a little bland. It was served with sauteed mushrooms, but it seemed as though nothing had been seasoned, not even with salt.

Even so, it was cooked so nicely I got over the lack of flavor. The vegetables, served alongside (along with a baked or sweet potato) were delicious - salty and crunchy, but not too crunchy. The service was very good, especially for a fairly casual place. And it was very, very reasonably priced.

Unfortunately, while we were there, Sarah spoke with the owner, who said that she's probably going to sell the place within the next year or two. The non-stop life of a restaurateur is getting to her. Too bad, really.

Though we can (and will) always fall back on grilled burgers and Greek-ish salad.

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