Wednesday, January 31, 2007

No. 47 rewrite

What Does a Bear Do in the Woods?

To steal a riff from Casey Stengel: Can't anyone in this town make a good pizza? To try and answer this question, me, the missus, and a pal from back East grabbed our snowshoes and climbed on up to Green Mountain Falls and the Black Bear Restaurant. We had it on good authority that this was one of the best joints around. The chef, a guy named Victor, runs a cooking school down in the Springs. He's notched more stars than Warren Beatty. Capice? Certainly he could toss a decent pie if anyone could.

It was dark by the time we arrived, just they way I like it. Dark as it was, I could see the place is not much to look at. This too is perfect because it means they put all the money into the food. To my surprise on entering we were met and seated by a real person. That's a nice touch. I did not overlook the bar and pool table down the hallway. They think of everything here, maybe one could get a little action too. But I digress. The dining room has a great big fireplace, the old-fashioned kind that burns wood, not gas. The tablecloths are real and so is the silverware. The only plastic in the whole place is a credit card. One thing made me a little nervous, we were the only ones there, and for a minute I thought it might be a set-up. The maitre d', a fast-talking gal with gunmetal eyes named Brooke, laid it all off to the slow season. A likely excuse. There was only three feet of snow. Maybe it's a front.

We scrutinized the menu with care. Appetizers and soups, yadda yadda, vary nightly and run from five bucks up to $19 for foie gras. A burger - "almost a pound" - will set you back a ten spot and an hour on the treadmill. Similar comfort foods like chicken fried steak and barbeque ribs fetch in the teens. Seemed like a greasy spoon, but then there were the award winners. Lacquered Duck, $30. Sounded kind of stiff to me. Claude Monet's Pork Chop should make quite an impression for $22. I was all set to ask about the pizza when we got sweet-talked into the Chef's "Tasting Table" of the "Gourmand" variety – a five course price-fixing deal, with wines, for $85. Someday, if the governor fails to call, I'll order the eight-course "Gastronomique."

It all started with something called an amuse bouche, which is French I think for onion relish on a potato chip. Like Lay's you can't eat just one, but that's all they give you. Next came the antipasti. I am not making this up, our server recited these from memory: Creole butternut squash soup and a salad of heirloom tomato, honey truffle cheese, and mango balsamic. The soup was nice and hot. I thought it tasted of sausage but it was just Louisiana lightning. I do not know where to get such a tomato in January.

Now we were hungry. Along came a duet of quail, two nice leg quarters, one marinated in raspberry, the other in balsamic vinegar. Only a quartet could have improved on it. Both were delicious, especially the salty, vinegar version.

An ample filet mignon with garlic mashed potatoes batted cleanup. My partners thought it was a grand slam, but I found the pressed duck demi-glace (again, I'm not making this up) it was drenched in a bit sweet and oniony for the meat. I'll call it a two-run double.

The wines were mezza-mezz. The Colorado chardonnay was too stiff, but by this time so were we. The malbec was what they call fruity. The Valpolicella – now you're talking. It was a Ripassa, and I didn't know this before but I'm telling you so you'll know next time, a Ripassa is made from sun-dried grapes, raisins practically, that are steeped in wine from the prior year's vintage before being pressed and fermented. It knocked me clear back to Veneto. Mama mia.

Dessert was a trio of chocolate hazelnut truffles with espresso dust in a white chocolate whip, but you probably figured it out already. Somebody call a cop. What was the number of that truck?

Sadly our quest for a decent slice of pepperoni did not come to fruition that night. Not only does the Black Bear not make good pizza, they don't make pizza at all. So we were somewhat disappointed. It is a pretty fancy place though, and we will go back. Our fare and service were worth a C-note, and I'll bet a sawbuck on the burger too. Don't take my word for it, go see for yourself. Let me know what you think. And if you know anyplace in this town to get a decent pizza, let me know that too.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would you start a restaurant review with a title that conjures a picture of bear going to the bathroom? Not very appetizing.

12:49 PM  

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