Thursday, November 10, 2011

Old Yarmouth Inn Needs an Update

While still in the land of early bird specials (and the week of both my parent's birthdays), we decided to try the deal at the Old Yarmouth Inn: Between 4:30-6:30 you can order three courses off their prix fixe menu daily for just $19.95.

The Inn, established in 1696, is the oldest on Cape Cod. The proprietors play up this heritage, seating guests in colonial dark wooden chairs and wall papering the room in a toile fabric patterned with an idyllic scene of children playing. Even the wooden molding, with it's square "dental" pattern, seems straight out of another era. The ceilings are a bit low (remember, people were shorter back then!) but, with two of the walls composed entirely of windows, the light and airy space never feels claustrophobic. One final welcoming touch is a pretty vase filled with fresh flowers on the table.

Having been out exploring Cape Cod all day, we were thrilled when the bread arrived. It was light and airy with a substantial crust. The sweet butter which accompanied it made for a simple and delightful mouthful, we were ready for our meal!

Not being a big fan of mixed green salads (how boring!) I chose to pay the $2.25 up charge for the Caesar salad. Now, normally I love the rich, creamy tang of the dressing, but this dish was completely overpowered by the anchovies in the dressing. I know there are purists out there who will claim that the anchovy taste should be present in a true Caesar, but I believe it should simply be part of the underlying depth of flavor, not the first thing that assaults your taste buds. The salad was very cheesy, but it seemed the sort of shredded Parmesan that you might buy at your local supermarket, not the delicate flakes I have come to expect. While the croutons were buttery and delicious, this salad certainly left a lot to be desired.

For my main course, I opted for the braised, boneless Short Ribs in a Hoisin and Beer Sauce. The meat itself was served steaming hot and fork tender, but it didn't have much flavor. The sauce was flavorful and rich, but I think they put in a little too much cornstarch as the texture felt artificially gelatinous. The carrots were way overcooked, completely falling apart. That's the sort of side I would expect at a cafeteria. The only redeeming items on the plate were the crispy snap peas and the creamy mashed potatoes. While it wasn't a bad dish, it certainly isn't one I will order again.

The final disappointment came with dessert. I selected the Lemon Cream Cake garnished with Raspberry Coulis. Dear reader, I kid you not when I say I have had better desserts from a supermarket bakery (which is where I suspect this came from). The cake was cloyingly sweet, yet still managed to have a slight bitterness. The best thing on the plate was the fresh strawberry. This restaurant is in desperate need of an on site pastry chef!

Overall, the Old Yarmouth Inn is clearly stuck in the past, but more an embarrassing 1980s big shoulder padded, neon colored, poofy haired sort of past. This place is in desperate need of a culinary makeover! It is a beautiful space with ample potential, however the food leaves a lot to be desired. I give this one belt notch.

Old Yarmouth Inn serves their three course special Daily from 4:30-6:30.
223 Route 6A
Yarmouth Port, MA 02675

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Somewhere...Beyond The Sea...A Deal is Waiting for Me

First off, dear readers, an apology for being so behind on this blog! I have indeed been dining on deals and am eager to share them with you, it's just taken a little longer then expected to write about my experiences. But, never fear, I remember each morsel in delicious detail.

My travels in the past few months took me to New England, so I used it as an excuse to slip away to one of my favorite places in the world: Cape Cod. This elegant peninsula is a mix of vacationing families and retirees. While the tourists may get stuck paying top dollar for so-so fare, the locals know that this town is chock full of deals! This being an older crowd, they are mostly found in the way of "early bird specials." So off I went to catch the worm!

My first deal was found at the Cape Sea Grille. Get your order in by 7pm, and for the price of an entree you also get a soup or salad and a dessert. Two additional courses completely gratis! This restaurant perfectly captures the beach side sophistication that is lost in so many tourist traps. The walls are lined with windows with views out on to the tall grasses and sweet cottages that define the area. The colors are plucked from the environment, with sand colored walls accented by sky blue details. We sat on the enclosed patio, the fading sunlight all around us spotlighting the perfect pink rose on each table.

The two types of bread were from a local artisan bakery. While the Pecan and Raisin bread had nice complex flavors, it was slightly burned on top. I much preferred the perfectly cooked Wheat bread. The light and airy texture of the inside contrasted nicely with the substantial crust.

I started with the soup of the day: Gazpacho. Done well, this is one of my favorite soups, and the Cape Sea Grille's version did not disappoint. The acidity of the fresh tomato gave it a nice tang which was offset by biting into the sweet corn kernels nestled within. The abundance of veggies cut into tiny pieces made every mouthful taste like summer's last hurrah. My only quibble was the creme fraiche. While it gave a nice color contrast, the mellow flavor was completely superfluous on top of the bold veggies.

For my entree I opted to go with the $24 Orange and Soy Roasted 1/2 Chicken. (Disclaimer: I thought I took a picture, but I apparently took a video, so enjoy!) The chicken itself was perfectly cooked, the meat was nice and moist. The sauce was subtle, something I did not expect with such potent flavors. What really made the dish shine was all the veggies on the plate. The caramelized onions melted in your mouth. The creamy blue and white potatoes contrasted beautifully with the crisp snap of the peas. Overall, the plate provided a lovely array of textures and a depth of flavors. I'm continually impressed by how great chefs can elevate the lowly bird.

Finally came the Chocolate Bread Pudding. This is like no other bread pudding I have ever experiened because there was no trace of "bread." That little ramekin contained pure unadulterated chocolate wonderfulness. The texture was remarkable, more substantial then fudge but far silkier and creamier then cake. Overall, a very sweet ending to a delicious meal.

The ambiance, the service, and the food all work together to ensure a special dining experience to be enjoyed by the customer. I would give this place four out of five belt notches.

Cape Sea Grille is located at:
31 Sea St.
Harwich Port, MA 02646