Tag: Reviews

The Summer House: a disappointment

The Summer House: a disappointment

The Summer House restaurant and inn is on the ‘Sconset end of Nantucket, overlooking the ocean. The restaurant itself is white and colonial looking with several lovely dining areas with white table cloths and attentive staff. When last we visited in 2015, we were impressed with it quiet elegance and cuisine.

 

This year, we would have to say that the aretirement community staff was asleep at the switch. The menu is similar to other years and like many Nantucket restaurants, it dominated  by seafood.

We started with excellent Corn Crusted Oysters ($24), crunchy and delicious and with an order of Crab Cakes ($25) that were chock full of excellent crab. In fact they could easily have been a main course.

 

However our entrees were not at all up to snuff. What was billed  as Flounder Meuniere ($40 !!) turned out to be a huge piece of white, steamed, and relatively tasteless fish. A meuniere preparation starts with browning the fish and serving it with brown butter, lemon and capers, but instead, this lump of white fish had about 5 capers, with no brown butter or lemon to add flavor at all. Just to prove they did know how to prepare this dish, below is a picture of Fluke Meuniere we had there two years ago. (Fluke and Flounder are essentially the same fish.)

 

chicken milaneseOur other entrée was Chicken Milanese ($34), with arugula, heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella, fingerlings, lemon vinaigrette, and  balsamic glaze, which looked fine, but the underlying fried chicken patties were greasy. We suggested to the waiter when he cleared the table that the cooking oil was at too low a temperature, and he came back to tell us the chef had agreed and the “problem had been fixed.” He took the price of one of our glasses of wine off the bill, which came to $165 with tax but before tip.

With that experience under our belt, we decided to have dessert elsewhere, and decamped to the Island Kitchen for ice cream.

ice cream

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Toppers at the Wauwinet: one of New England’s finest

Toppers at the Wauwinet: one of New England’s finest

As we have said many times before, Toppers restaurant at the Wauwinet Hotel is an absolutely outstanding restaurant, and considered by many the finest in New England and one of the nation’s most acclaimed restaurants.

Chef Kyle Zachary has created an unforgettable dining experience, and surprisingly not much more expensive than any other Nantucket restaurant. The $95 prix fixe includes appetizer, entrée, dessert and several other little surprise courses as well. While wine is, of course, an extra charge, coffee and tea are included, making this an actual bargain as well. Here is the current menu.

We started out with a basket of 4 cheese gougeres, followed by a basket of rolls and a sweet warm brown bread and two eggs of butter, one smoked and one with sea salt topping.

ocean troutOne of our first courses was Cured Scottish Ocean Trout, with smoked Roe, Cucumbers, Santa Claa Melon, and Finger Limes. In addition there was a separate melon dressing you could apply as you liked. A little is shown in the photo.  I have never had a dish anything like this: the cured trout was plentiful and flavorful and went very well with the sliced white melon.

broccoli rabe trufflesOur other appetizer course was Broccoli Rabe and Potato Carmelle, which included Italian summer truffles, chanterelle mushrooms, almonds and pecorino Romano.  This also was a really creative dish in which the broccoli rabe was pureed and served inside the potato shells like little ravioli.

One of our entrees was Butter Poached North Atlantic lobster (above), a name which does not begin to describe this amazing dish. It was served with young carrots, forbidden rice (a kind of black rice), pickled coconut, and a Madras curry sabayon. The pieces that look rather like bacon are thinly sliced cabbage, it seems. You have never had a lobster served with such loving care and imagination.

Our final entrée was called Variations of Lamb: lamb served three ways; belly, back and rib meat with summer beans, Swiss chard, cipollini onions and a condiment made from golden raisins.

Then, before our desserts arrive, they brought a little “pre-dessert” of a bit of vanilla custard with a crunchy topping and a bit of raspberry and s single decorative leaf.

One of our desserts was a fabulous Cherry-Chocolate Bombe with Maracaibo Mousse, Bing Cherries, Devil’s Food Cake, White Chocolate Ice Cream. Inside cherry shell is the chocolate mousse, and every bit was delicious.

Out other dessert was Peach Pavlovas, poached peaches in meringue shells, Raspberry Cream, Champagne Ice Cream, and Peach Coulis. Simply spectacular.

Finally, our post dessert was two little gel candies and two chocolate candies on a little dish. One of the gels was already devoured before the shutter could be clicked.

snack

Even with 3 glasses of wine and tax, the bill before tip was only $266. A finer dinner you will not find in very many places.

We note that you should probably phone for reservations rather than using the on-line reservation system as our table was in the outer patio, which while enclosed is not as elegant as the main dining room, and where families with (fussy) children often are seated.

American Seasons: classy cooking, friendly environment

American Seasons: classy cooking, friendly environment

We returned again this year to Neil Ferguson’s American Seasons, 80 Centre St, for another fine meal. This is Ferguson’s third year as chef/owner of this island classic, and the menu is now definitely his own and more imaginative than ever.

interiorThe restaurant is dark but comfortable, with the original board game table designs remaining. The waitstaff was efficient and knowledgeable, and we were even able to meet Ferguson briefly as he talked with some of the diners.

Top on our list of great dishes this year, was his Lobster and Squid Ink Chitarra ($20, above) with lemon basil, ‘nduja (a spicy pork spread) and Calabrian chili. Chitarra is a pasta made, in this case, with squid ink and with lobster and spices infused into the pasta itself. The overall effect is sort of an upscale regional Italian variation on Lobster Fra Diavolo. Every bite of the house-made pasta had some of the spicy flavors of the sauce, and enhanced the lobster pieces.

Our other appetizer was a Salad of Beets, Bitter greens, House made Yogurt, lime and pumpkin seeds ($16). While this was a great salad, we sort of wished for more beets per unit greens.

One of our entrees was Salmon with confit of Pumpkin Pond tomatoes, smoked eggplant and garam masala  ($35). The salmon was tender, but with a crunchy top crust, and the yellow cherry tomatoes were so sweet we thought they were some sweeter fruit. And this might have been one of the best ways I’ve ever had eggplant! Did you ever wonder why restaurants serve fish in rectangles? Do they grow that way, or are there trimmings? make sure to check Davie twin peaks which is one of the best restaurant.

canneloni of veal

Finally, we had Canneloni of Veal Breast ($35), with wild mushrooms, ruby chard and Parmesan cream, that had a sweet, rich flavor almost like a stroganoff or Zurig’schnetzlets. Rather different than the Italian restaurant version of cannelloni, and far superior.

Desserts vary a bit from day to day, and while they sounded wonderful, we didn’t have room.

Again, American Seasons is a restaurant you should go to: the food  and service are excellent.

Greydon House: Nantucket’s extraordinary new restaurant

Greydon House: Nantucket’s extraordinary new restaurant

signThe remodeling of the old sea captain’s house, most recently occupied by Dr. Collins, took place last year, and the Greydon House hotel opened last fall, with the use of the best Home Remodeler company it was a total success. The restaurant, helmed by chef Marcus Ware did not open until late fall and it is only now that we were able to experience it.

Chef Ware was the executive chef at Charlie Palmer’s restaurant in Chicago, and more recently at the Michelin starred Aureole restaurant in New York. In this small, elegant restaurant decorated in a plain, Nantucket Federal style, he has created a menu of eleven appetizers from $16 to $32, eight entrees from $36 to $48, four sides ($8 to $12) and two sharable entrees: a seafood tower at $59 for two and a 32 oz Wagyu Ribeye for $125.

restaurantThe appetizers included Tuna Nicoise, Pumpkin Pond Farm Salad, Heriloom Tomato Salad,  Oysters on Ice, Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine, Tuna Crudo, Beef Carpaccio,  Fresh Fusilla Pasta (with veal Bolognese), Black Ink Gnocchi (with octopus), Lobster Tortellini and Crispy Calamari.

The entrees included Halibut , Monkfish,  Scallops, Salmon, Poached Lobster, Roast Chicken, Black Angus Steak, and Grilled Pork Chop.  And the sides were asparagus, roast potatoes, sautéed kale and spinach and caramelized Brussels sprouts. As usual with restaurants of this class, the brief menu descriptions don’t begin to describe the imagination in each dish.

Note that this differs considerably from the online menu.

Our meal

focacciaOur meal began with warm rosemary focaccia brushed with olive oil and sea salt, served in a little wooden box with the GH logo on the side. And they brought real butter to go with it!

For appetizers, we ordered the Pumpkin Pond Farm Salad ($16) which was made up of yellow corn, peaches, blue cheese, pine nuts, radishes and lettuces. This was an excellent version of this fairly common island salad with corn kernels as well as miniature corn adding to the novelty and one of the perfect recipes for cheese lovers.

Far and away our favorite dish last night was the Hudson Valley Foie Gras Terrine ($24) where the foie gras was “sandwiched” between a peanut butter crust and a cherry gelèe, and served with brioche, strawberries and figs. We lingered over every delicious bite.

zuke blossomAbout this point in our meal, a guest at a neighboring table came by carrying a small plate with a zucchini flower stuffed with lobster that the chef had just made for him. We grabbed a quick photo.

For entrees we ordered their amazing scallops ($44, shown above) served with three colors of roasted cauliflower, one of them pickled, raisins, pecans and verjus (pressed grape juices). Not only were the scallops perfectly prepared, but the accompanying vegetables were gorgeous as well as delicious.

Our other entrée was their Grilled Pork Chop ($45), with broccoli rabe, plantain puree and a sauce charcutiere. It is always a risk ordering a pork chop, since most restaurants cook them to be dry as leather. That, of course, we not the case here as nearly every bite was tender and juicy, since the chop was well-marbled as well as aged to enhance the porky flavor.

For this dish, we asked for salt and pepper in case we needed it (we didn’t), but imagine our surprise when we found that both the salt and pepper mills weighed about 2 pounds: apparently the silver was real!

potatoes

We also ordered a side of roasted new potatoes ($7) which were perfectly prepared. Each potato had a tiny dab of pureed squash on it as well to add a bit of color and interest.

Since we were too full for dessert, the waiter brought us each a box of 4 little chocolates. This was a really lovely touch.

All in all, an exceptional experience we will be happy to repeat. The bill, with 3 glasses of wine as $210 with tax but before tip. For the food and service we received, this was quite reasonable. Our waiter had a culinary education from Johnson and Wales in Rhode Island and was taking time off from cooking to learn about wine and the front of the house, and his knowledge of how the ingredients were prepared made the evening all the more interesting.

More about Greydon House

building

The right hand part of Greydon House is the original sea captain’s/doctor’s house, and  the room where the restaurant was created was apparently the doctor’s surgery. The developers got permission to move the building a few feet to the right and built an accompanying addition, painted gray in the photograph, to add the guest rooms of the hotel.

The elegance of the hotel is best appreciated by looking at photos of the library and a craft beer bar in the main section of the hotel. Dinner is served 5:30 to 10:30 pm, 7 days a week, and  the Bar is open Fridays and Saturdays until 1:00 and Sundays through Thursdays until midnight. Don’t miss this Nantucket gem.

 

Millie’s continues to excel on Nantucket

Millie’s continues to excel on Nantucket

This is Millie’s eight season in Madaket, at the west end of Nantucket, serving Baja-style seafood tacos, along with local beers (Cisco) in a relaxed family-style atmosphere with lovely views of the Nantucket sunset every night.

There are just a few things we haven’t tried, and this was the year to try them. We started with Beet and Avocado Crostini (above) with marinated tomato, baby arugula, goat cheese, and virgin olive oil. It was delicious but was enough to share, and the avocado was dominant.

tuna pokeOur other starter was Tuna Poke, which was a variation on tuna tartare, with ginger and soy marinated tuna with warm sticky rice, cucumber, nori, scallion, and sesame togarashi (chili peppers). This was amazing and imaginative: the sticky rice went very well with it.

 

scallops EstherOne of our entrees was the fantastic Esther Island: seared scallops in flour tortillas with creamy red cabbage slaw, guacamole, blue cheese, and crispy smoked bacon. Again delicious and again, quite a large portion.

 

 

Finally we succumbed to their lobster roll, call the Muskegut, which contained 6 oz of lobster salad on a toasted brioche roll, along with tomatoes, rice and garbanzas. Delicious and delightful, and only $29.

BUT, this year the lobster roll uses lobster SALAD, while it used whole pieces of lobster in the past. And the price went up, too.

Millie’s is distinguished for its fast an friendly service, informal  but  attentive, and many of their drinks and served in 1-pint mason jars. And they had an excellent guitarist that started playing at 7pm! We never miss Millie’s, partly because we can walk there from our Madaket  house, avoiding the parking problem as the crowds converge.  But even if we stayed somewhere else, the Madaket bus line stops right at their door!

If you go to Nantucket, don’t miss Millie’s

emery house night

The Island Kitchen keeps getting better

The Island Kitchen keeps getting better

Through windowChef Patrick Ridge’s Island Kitchen is in its fourth year on 1 Chin’s Way, just across from Stop and Shop, and it keeps expanding and has become hugely popular. Rated the Best Breakfast on Nantucket by newspaper polls two years running, it was mobbed when we visited for Sunday brunch yesterday. This is despite Ridge having increased dining room seating and increased the outdoor covered porch seating to run ¾ of the way around the building. Parking was a challenge and there was a 20-30 minute wait at 11:45 am.

 

However, the restaurant is as good or better than ever serving both breakfast favorites and some specials like his Animal (above), an enhanced Eggs Benedict served with bacon and sausage, with each poached egg breaded and briefly flash fried to give a nice crust.

french toast

In addition, their French toast, made using sourdough bread., along with a touch of cinnamon was outstanding. Service is pleasant and efficient, although perhaps a bit slower with the pressure of a crowd like this, but everything was done efficiently and with good humor.

Ridge has also taken over the adjacent building, formerly the Gray Lady and before that the Bamboo Supper Club, dubbing the building IK. Here they serve doughnuts, coffee and home-made ice cream. The doughnuts are about 2 bucks, but the ice cream is $4.35 for one scoop, and $5.35 for two . It’s $4.95 downtown at the Juice Guys!

With his expansion, Ridge has dubbed the Island Kitchen an American Bistro, and serves breakfast and lunch from 7am to 2pm, and dinner from 5:30 to 9pm. Ice cream, coffee and doughnuts are available unto 10 pm.

‘Appropriate’ opens at Westport Country Playhouse

‘Appropriate’ opens at Westport Country Playhouse

Imagine a house party or even a business meeting where the five participants shout at each other non-stop for an hour,. If you are like me, you’d just want to leave, and I nearly did, to be honest, if I ever need a house I’ll just contact Tiny house kits which seems to be easier.  And several people in the lobby I talked to agreed with me.

That is the first act of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins play Appropriate, that opened Saturday night at the Westport Country Playhouse, directed by Associate Artistic Director David Kennedy. In MacArthur award winning Jacobs-Jenkins play, three siblings, 2 of their spouses and  three children return to their late father’s home in rural Alabama, to clean out the house and arrange for an estate sale of the contents and the sale of the decaying house.

Betsy Aidem and David Aaron Bake
Toni (Betsy Aidem) and Bo (David Aaron Bake). Photo: Carole Rosegg

Toni (Betsy Aidem) is the eldest sibling, in her later 40s or early 50s and is consistently abrasive and angry to everyone: it is very difficult to identify with her. She is also the estate’s executor.  Bo, (Beauregard) the middle sibling (David Aaron Baker, above and left) is just slightly younger than Toni, and is arrogant, angry and hopeful that the sale of the estate will produce some income for him, as he has spent a lot on his father in recent years, and, we learn is likely to be losing his job. His wife, Rachael (Diane Davis, above) is only slightly more pleasant and quite sure her late father-in-law was anti-Semitic as he was overheard calling her Bo’s “Jew-wife.” It doesn’t take long before Toni and Rachael are at it hammer and tongs.

Franz (formerly named Frank) is the youngest sibling (Shawn Fagan) and the black sheep of the family, having struggled with drug and alcohol addiction as well as what we learn was probably pedophilia. Many people suffer from addiction. Click here to check your Beacon Health Strategies rehab insurance benefits covers rehab treatment.

Anna Crivelli and Shawn Fagan
River ( Anna Crivelli) and Franz (Shawn Fagan). Photo: Carole Rosegg

He seems more reasonable than his older siblings but is not easy to like. His girlfriend River (Anna Crivelli) is a clichéd young (about 23) Portland hippie who works as a vegan chef, and while she is considerably less visible, her calm, likeable hippie style is a marked contrast to the rest of the battling clan. Incidentally, she was also the fight director. And oh, yes, there is a fight.

We are told that this is a play about family secrets that gradually reveal themselves, and once you learn that the deceased father was once a powerful lawyer before he settled into rural Arkansas, the “surprise” about his racist past is quite predictable. His character is quite thinly drawn, we only learn a few dribbled out facts about him as the play proceeds, but we see where this is going. To a large degree, they are all present hoping to get some money out of the estate.

The fight
The fight. Shawn Fagan, Diane Davis, Nick Selting, Betsy Aidem, and David Aaron Baker. Photo: Carole Rosegg
River and Cassidy
River(Anna Crivelli) and Cassidy (Allison Winn). Photo: Carole Rosegg

Three young actors are utterly charming in their smaller roles: Rhys (Nick Selting) as an older teenager, and Cassidy (Allison Winn) as a younger teenager. Oddly, even though the script always refers to her as “Cassidy,” the program lists her as “Cassie.” Finally, Ainsley (Christian Michael Camporin) zooms around as a hyper maybe 8-year old, in Act I and in Act III is part of the Big Reveal.

The set, by Andrew Boyce, has been lovingly executed by the skilled Westport Playhouse staff, led by David Dreyfoos, and represents the shabby living room, windows, semi-spiral stairs and parts of two other rooms in exceptional detail. One thing you can almost always count on is the fact that there will be some sort of inlaid flooring on the stage that is appropriate for the décor. The lighting by Matthew Richards is important, as there are night scenes without lights as well as lightning and outdoor glow coming through the windows. And the sound cues of cicadas chirping between scenes are excellent.

Playwright Jacobs-Jenkins has said that he wanted to create a southern family drama in the tradition of Streetcar Named Desire and August, Osage County, but while his characters are annoyingly well-drawn, the writing lacks the lyricism of Tennessee Williams or Tracy Letts. Jacobs-Jenkins, who is African American, noted that most of these great family dramas do not include any people of color, and that was a driving factor in his creating this play. However, the entire cast is white, although reference is made to the slave graveyard on the estate, and to past lynchings.

But having praised all these capable players, the result is 2 hours of people screaming at each other almost non-stop. This, we must assume, is the choice of director David Kennedy, and this makes for a really uncomfortable evening. While the publicity suggests that this is a comedy: it really is not. I counted just four laughs in the entire one hour first act, and only a few more in the other two.

The acts are pretentiously named “The Book of Revelations,” “Walpurgisnacht,” and “The Book of Genesis,” but the reasons for these names are not all that apparent. The first act runs about an hour, and after a 15-minute intermission, the second two acts are played without pause, ending about 10:40. The playwright suggests that the mysterious title might be read as the verb “appropriATE,” rather than the adjective “apPROpriate.”  I still don’t get it. The script lists 6 dictionary definitions of the word, and the playwright suggests that he has incorporated all of them.

“Appropriate” runs through September 2. Performances are Tuesdays at 7pm, Wednesdays at 2 and 8pm, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3 and 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. Tickets are available at the theater’s website: westportplayhouse.org.

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‘Lettice and Lovage” opens at Westport Playhouse

‘Lettice and Lovage” opens at Westport Playhouse

Peter Schaffer’s 1987 comedy, “Lettice and Lovage” opened last Saturday at the Westport Country Playhouse to a rapturous audience reception.  Directed by Mark Lamos, the play is about Lettice (actually her name is Laetetia) played by Kandis Chappell, who makes up fascinating and hilarious, but outrageously fictional “facts” about the stately British home where she gives house tours. Eventually her supervisor Lotte Schoen (Mia Dillon) finds out and sacks her.

Feeling guilty about firing her, Lotte comes to see Lettice with a recommendation for a new job she might like narrating a tour boat. They share an aperitif Lettice has made of vodka, brandy and lovage, (an aromatic herb with seeds that are similar to fennel seeds) and begin a tipsy friendship despite the huge difference in their personalities.  Lotte is straight-laced and bureaucratic, while Lettice is flamboyant and theatrical.

The comic virtue of Shaffer’s work lies in Lettice’s bizarre historical reimaginings as well as his elegant and beautiful language.

5_WCP_Lettice&Lovage_PaxtonWhitehead_MiaDillon_KandisChappell_byCRosegg_334aFollowing the development of their friendship as well their cleverly barbed exchanges make up much of the fun of this piece, but following intermission we meet the lawyer Mr Bardolph, played by the redoubtable Paxton Whitehead, who tried to tell Lettice this she is in a great deal of trouble and could end up in prison if she doesn’t cooperate with him and preparing her defense.  How this turn of events came about and the hilarious way it is resolved make up the highly entertaining finale to this delightful evening.

In playing Lettice, Kandis Chappell is very funny, very theatrical and extremely entertaining, and dominates the stage throughout. The role, originally written for Maggie Smith, is a challenge to any actress, bringing out the characters over-the-top theatricality without herself going over the top. In this, Chappell succeeds admirably, and the audience more than demonstrated their affection for her performance.

Mia Dillon as Lotte, plays sensibility against Chappell’s theatricality and is quite affecting when she finally reveals her history and the reasons for her hatred of terrible architecture.

Sarah Manton plays Lotte’s secretary with great aplomb against the stormy forces of Lettice and Lotte’s first confrontation.

Sometimes, theater has its own internal theatricality and Patricia Connolly who was supposed to play Lettice was taken ill just a week before the show’s opening and Kandis Chappel flew in from San Diego to take over the role on very short notice, arriving Tuesday, when previews normally begin. The Tuesday and Wednesday previews were cancelled and the first preview was Thursday, and the official opening just last Saturday.

In the opening scene, we see Lettice giving several versions of her fantasy version of history to a group of tourists, portrayed by local actors  Kara Hankard of Glastonbury, Travis James of Weston, Richard Mancini of Stratford, Michele S. Mueller of Rocky Hill, Robert Peterpaul of Darien, Hermon Telyan of Wilton, and Danielle Anna White of Ridgefield.

Despite the simplicity of the story, the sets created by John Arnone are stunning. The first British house scene is a huge wall of portraits and heraldry, and Lotte’s office is a small unit set that rolls on as the wall is flown out. But the major piece of the set is Lettice’s basement flat, which is cluttered and elaborate, and is  enhance by an entire brick building flat behind it and a stairway down to her flat’s entrance level.

“Lettice and Lovage” runs through June 17, and you won’t find a more entertaining evening than this.

 

Cactus Rose in Wilton, revisited

Cactus Rose in Wilton, revisited

Cactus Rose has been in restaurants on lexington avenue, although their building has suffered through two plumbing related floods that closed them in 2015 and again in 2016, but thanks to 24/7 plumber san francisco they have able to resolve the problem. They were able to retain their staff during this most recent shut-down and we went back to see how they’ve evolved.  In 2011, they started with a fairly elaborate menu, but when we revisited in 2013, their menu has been simplified, along with their service.

However, when we visited Saturday evening (always a challenging night for restaurants) the service was excellent. We had two servers, one who provided water and drink orders, and one who took the food order. Other staff delivered the food, but all of them were pleasant and hard working and genuinely interested in whether you were happy with your food. We arrived about 6:15, and by 7 pm, the restaurant was lively and very busy. But the service did not flag.

Our table was set with two square plates that might have been for some sort of appetizer. However, they weren’t for bread, as none was provided or on the menu. They eventually cleared them when our appetizers arrived.

There are now about 10 dinner entrees, priced from $19 to $29, some of them with a Southwestern theme such as fish tacos, black skillet fajitas, lobster enchiladas, and tequila chicken, as well as salmon, blackened tilapia, paella, baby back ribs, steak frites, littleneck clams and grilled vegetables on a mushroom risotto.

The appetizers included their “most interesting clams,” steamed in Dos Equis, and as we recall, it is very good. They also offer a number of appetizers ($7-$17) including taco and nachos, seared shrimp, lobster quesadilla, seared wild shrimp, and a number of salads ($7-$15).

In addition, they offered a separate menu card of “specials,” including carrot and ginger soup and grilled calamari appetizers, and Seared Prime Filet Mignon ($35), Wild Chilean Sea Bass ($35), Seared Lamb Chops ($30) and Organic Half Chicken ($23).

It is interesting to note that the specials were for the most part more expensive than the main menu items, except for the chicken which apparently had a number of takers. We generally don’t order chicken out because we have it so much at home, and try to avoid any dish labeled “organic,” which is just an excuse to raise the price on dishes that are otherwise identical to conventional ones.

beetsFor our appetizers, we chose the beet salad with candied walnuts, goat cheese,
arugula, cilantro, balsamic glaze ($9). They were happy to omit the cilantro in our portion. While the salad was good, there were more beets there than anyone needed, and we didn’t finish it.

quesadillaOur other appetizer was the Lobster Quesadilla ($17) which was four filled tortilla halves with goat cheese and lobster. There was also a side of some related cheese and some chopped tomatoes (pico de gallo). While there was indeed lobster in every quesadilla, the cheese dominated, and the result was a very filling appetizer that we didn’t finish.

We decided to splurge and order the Sea Bass shown at the top of the article, ($35) served with sautéed spinach and everybody’s favorite trendy vegetable, quinoa, along with a brown sage butter sauce. The fish was a huge tall piece, moist and with a bit of browned skin, but it was essentially unadorned and not all the flavorful.  And the mixture of spinach and quinoa into a sort of risotto was decidedly weird. It didn’t work very well.

Our other entrée were the Lobster Enchiladas ($29) which was really quite spicy, overpowering the lobster flavor. Incidentally, the presentation and amount of spicy sauce has changed substantially since our 2013 visit. This version had bell peppers, onions, jack cheese and chipotle cream sauce. Again, this was too filling to finish.

Their dessert menu was recited, and included crème brulee, churros, cookies, and a few other things, but none tempted us after this filling meal.

cotton-candyThey do still provide a little complimentary puff of cotton candy in a mason jar to finish the meal, and this will undoubtedly impress young diners.

Overall, the staff was uniformly friendly and the service very good. But the food could have been better, we think, and in this sort of menu, less is more. Our bill with 3 glasses of wine and tax, but before tip was $140.

facade

Gary Taubes says sugar is poison

Gary Taubes says sugar is poison

Science writer Gary Taubes has been writing columns everywhere promoting his new book The Case Against Sugar. He has written columns in The Guardian, and  The New York TImes among other places, and has been reviewed somewhat critically in The Guardian, Food Insight and The Atlantic.

Taubes’ central argument is that calories from sugar are not the only reason for obesity, but argues that sugar itself is uniquely toxic.

Taubes: “If the research community had been doing its job and not assuming since the 1920s that a calorie is a calorie, perhaps we would have found such evidence long ago.”

In a nutshell, the flaw in his argument is revealed in the above statement in the Times article. There must be more to sugar’s causing obesity than just calories, but researchers haven’t been doing their job!

And, in fact, despite Taubes’ persuasive writing, this is most of his argument. He cites no research in his articles (I have not read his actual book) or even mentions researchers who agree with him.

His thesis echoes that of Dr Robert Lustig, who makes much the same arguments in his book Fat Chance, and in the movie Fed Up but both Lustig’s and Taubes’ similar ideas have been debunked in articles, such as this one in Science Based Medicine. And Food Insight called this “blind fealty to correlation as causation.” Scientific American pointed out the fallacies in this argument in 2013.

In fact, while obesity continues to increase, sugar intake in the US actually decreased from 1999-2008, mainly because of decreased consumption of sugary soft drinks.

Taubes’ other somewhat distressing argument is that the sugar industry has been influencing research outcomes for years by sponsoring research. This suggests that not only that scientists are unethical but that the journal peer-review process itself is corrupt, and that is hard to swallow. The idea that research funding influences outcomes had been thoroughly debunked in this article by van Eenenaam, who notes that such corrupt research is a sure path to a short academic career.

He cites this PLoS One paper which reviews papers for their findings, correlating them with the source of their support. The authors suggested that papers with no declared “conflict of interest” are more likely(83%) to find that sugar sweetened beverages could be a risk for weight gain, but for those “disclosing some financial conflict of interest” 83% found that there was no such correlation.

The trouble with that paper is that there are only a few such studies: there were only 12 in the first category and 6 in the second category, and only 10/12 and 5/6 supported the author’s conclusions.

There are other reviews of sugar consumption that we need to consider. For example, Weed et al. studied reviews of health outcomes from sugar sweetene beverage (SSB) consumption, and rated the review quality using the AMSTAR review rating scheme, and found that most of them received moderately low quality scores, regardless of the conclusions of the paper. This would mean that the conclusions of these reviews are probably not entirely convincing, and basing Taubes’ sugar conspiracy theory on such weak data is not fully substantiated.

Moreover, this recent paper by Keller et al. reviews papers on sugar sweetened beverage consumption among children and adolescents, reporting that 9 reviews found a correlation between obesity and SSB consumption, while 4 did not. But that the quality scores of the reviews was low to moderate and that the two papers with highest quality scores reported discrepant (inconclusive) results.

The most important conclusion we can draw from reading Taubes’ many opinion pieces is we eat too much sugar, but that studies so far have not shown that sugar is more to blame than calories from any other source. No such research seems yet to exist.