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Restaurant review: Bartlett House in Ghent

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People tend to speak in superlatives about Columbia County. They go for drives and fall in love with the most wonderful historic properties even when investments drain bank accounts and minor renovations become full-scale rehabs. It happened to Lev Glazman and Alina Roytberg, founders of the Fresh soap and skin care brand (part of the luxury Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy group), and partner Damien Janowicz, who fell for a vacant 19th-century former railroad hotel during a drive upstate.


On Route 66 in Ghent, Bartlett House is a striking, three-story, standalone brick building with frothy cornicing, its name boldly lettered in white paint, and a porch — a guaranteed must-sit in fair weather — spanning its width. The owners undertook a nine-month restoration, salvaging sills and floors along the way, to open a bakery-café focused on the bounty of local growers and makers. Future ambitions include cooking classes, guest chefs and a test kitchen upstairs, community gatherings, even farmer’s markets on the lawn. Underpinning it, their six-point mission statement reads like a self-actuating vision board.

To accomplish it all, they secured Brooklyn-based executive chef Amy Stonionis, who, with sous chef Rachel Freier, lives on the top floor, and head baker Craig Escalante, a California native who turns out loaves that are featured on the dinner menu and croissants and pear-rosewater muffins that anchor the café. You’ll inevitably linger on the porch stairs once you catch sight of the flour-topped counters and kitchen action through raised basement windows.

More Information

Bartlett House

2258 Route 66

Ghent

Phone: 392-7787

Web: www.bartletthouse.com

Reservations: Highly recommended.

Credit cards: All major.

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday.

Parking: On-site lot.

Disabled access: ADA parking spot and elevator from side entrance.

Attire: Casual to smart.

Prices: Appetizers, $5 to $12; entrées, $16 to $27; desserts, $6.50 to $10.

Food: (***) Simple, traditional hearty fare given modern upgrades. Scratch kitchen showcases locally sourced and seasonal ingredients and the excellent in-house bakery.

Beverage: (***) European and Chatham Brewing beers, $7 to $11. Lovely little wine list, most available by the glass. By the glass, $7 to $8; by the bottle, $40 to $68.

Service: (***) Friendly and attentive.

Ambiance: (***1/2) Cozy, buzzy little vintage dining room with tightly spaced tables.

Personality: (***1/2) Busy, vintage charm with wonderful attention to preservation and modern interpretation.

Overall Rating: ***


Café branding is beautifully woven in. Labels on local jams, wax-sealed maple syrup and pastry boxes link past to present with the Bartlett House tagline: “Built 1870. Revived 2016.” Then, last November, two weeks after a write-up in The New York Times, they finally opened for weekend dinner. Word has spread. Dinner reservations are tight, and weekend nights the parking lot is a sea of Audis and Beamers.

Stonionis researched old menus for dishes befitting the hotel’s historic roots, and she shoots straight with wholesome dishes mixing nods to the past and to current kitchen trends. In screaming hot cast-iron skillets, a pressed half chicken ($23) — flesh moist and skin crisp — is bathed in its pan juices, buttery lemon, garlic and softened leek; slow-braised short ribs ($27), lubricated in a red wine pan reduction, collapse under fork pressure into a luxurious bed of sunchoke and potato puree.

But it’s not only hearty railroad dinners of meat and mash. We demolish silky, boozy chicken liver mousse ($9), cracking the fat cap and mounding it on grilled sourdough bread with pickled red onions. And we cackle inanely over a Madeira-fumed mushroom toast ($12) piled with glistening hen-of-the-woods mushrooms. In a peppery double act, horseradish creme fraiche and Starling Yards arugula cleverly partner with a violent puce beet-cured salmon ($16); the bright orange-cured egg yolk nestled beside it is more proof of a kitchen hell bent on creative things.

Working alongside the curing, pickling scratch kitchen is a bakery putting out artisanal breads with irresistible crust and crumb and an Old World flavor. They’re rightfully proud to put a sampler basket on the menu as an appetizer ($5), so don’t look for complimentary bread. Decisions to set out tiny-footed trivets for skillets or to make an exception to sell the clearly un-local San Francisco Sightglass coffee and Hudson Valley Jane’s Ice Cream all show careful intent. Even the wine list steers clear of precious affectation, with a relaxed selection popping with fairly priced treats.

It’s no surprise to find seasonal ingredients in the spotlight, but simplicity sharpens focus. An unpretentious mass of shaved Brussels sprouts and kale ($11) is hardly taxing swept into a leaf pile, but it’s woken up with tiny bursts of juice and crunch from pomegranate arils and toasted pecans: A festive scene. Roasted baby carrots are reunited with their severed tops in carrot-greens yogurt sauce, and fries are the crispy, skinny kind. And Stonionis’ cavatappi macaroni and cheese ($9.50) gets its magic from house-made crumbs and an unusual blend with a scintilla of nutmeg sweetness in its gooey, cheesy depths.

The few rough spots are well-intentioned: Whole seared brook trout ($23), though moist, is missing the depth of flavor its gleaming body suggests and swims with bok choy in an uncomfortably oily skillet, and a vegetable and grain bowl ($19) dominated by rye berries and little else is desperately unexciting.

Desserts are largely rewarding little blinders. The hot apple cider affogato ($8) is a brilliant higher calling for caramelized apples and ginger ice cream, given a tableside bath in warm local apple cider; and honey-pecan pie ($10) is couched in dreamy softness though we choose vanilla over the paired chocolate ice cream.

There’s admirable cohesion in the menu and interior, as if you get the whole story through what you eat and what you see. Attention to detail has created the platonic ideal of a 19th-century railroad hotel dining room that likely exceeds its original glory. Die-cut metal sconces shoot sepia light up the walls, shelves stocked with pottery are fashioned from salvaged stair balustrades, and I lingered by the bathroom peering at the tightly crimped newsprint wallpaper with its bidirectional modern and vintage flair.

That duality is reflected in other ways. The average age of weekend diners is easily 60 — an elderly gentleman in a tweed suit wafted the scent of mothballs my way every time he moved his arms — while supplemental dinner staff are youthful, keen types who might leave a plate of chicken bones on the table through dessert.

Bartlett House is reveling in regained love, embraced by the community, locals and weekenders alike. There’s a welcoming, hive-like energy as coats are hung and retrieved, coffees poured and café purchases tied up with string. Whether you fancy coffee and pastry, weekend dinner or their rather smashing-sounding Sunday brunch, you should pop in and see.

Dinner for four — including four appetizers, three entrées, three desserts and a $49 bottle of wine — came to $325.09 with tax and 20 percent tip.

Susie Davidson Powell is a freelance writer from East Greenbush. Follow her on Twitter, @SusieDP. To comment on this review, visit the Table Hopping blog, blog.timesunion.com/tablehopping.

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Baking with Betty

This week’s column is dedicated to the wardens of Maine who like so many, respond to calls for help irregardless of weather.

Many people think of a cast iron fry pans as “just a fry pan.” Cast iron skillets are good for baking too!

Right Side Up Pineapple Crumb Cake

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Topping: In medium bowl place:

1/3 cup flour

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons butter, softened

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine with fingertips until mixture is crumbly. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Cake: In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat 2 teaspoons canola oil over medium-high heat. add 4 (1/2 inch thick) fresh pineapple rings. Cook 1 minute on each side or until lightly browned (reduce heat to medium if necessary). Remove from skillet. Repeat procedure with 4 more pineapple slices. Remove skillet from heat. Let cool approximately 20 minutes. Wipe skillet with a paper towel.

In medium bowl, combine:

1-1/2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

add 3/4 cup whole milk

6 tablespoons softened butter

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Beat on low speed with an electric mixer until combined, approximately 1 minute. Beat at high speed 2 minutes; stopping occasionally to scrape sides of bowl. With mixer on low speed, add 3 large egg yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Spread batter into cooled skillet. Arrange pineapple over batter over lapping slice. Sprinkle with topping. Bake until golden brown, approximately 35 minutes. Remove from oven. Let cool 30 minutes.

For Glaze:

In a small saucepan, combine:

1/4 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon dark corn syrup

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

Bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring frequently. Cook until smooth, approximately 1 minute. Remove from heat; drizzle over cake.

Pecan-Coconut Monkey Bread

1 (16.3 ounce) can refrigerated buttermilk biscuits

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/3 cup chopped pecans

1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Cane syrup or maple syrup, to serve

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch enamel-coated cast iron skillet with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside. Cut biscuits into quarters. In a small bowl, add melted butter. In another small bowl, stir together sugar and cinnamon. Working in batches, dip biscuit pieces in butter; roll in sugar mixture to coat. Place biscuit pieces in prepared skillet. Sprinkle evenly with pecans and coconut. Bake until golden brown, approximately 25 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes. Drizzle with cane syrup or maple syrup, if desired.

Cast Iron Care

Do: Clean pans as soon as cool enough to handle. Do, after washing, dry your cookware immediately to ward off rust. Heat it on the stove over low heat for about 5 minutes. While the pan is still warm rub or brush on a light coating of oil. Let cool completely.

Don’t: Leave a pan unattended on the stove. Use harsh abrasives. Use soap (if you can help it.) Submerge your pans in water. Place your pans in the dishwasher. Put cast iron pans away wet.

Our thought for the week: “You know you’re getting older when you do the crossword puzzle in ink because you can’t read the answers in pencil.”

Category: Skillets  Tags: ,  Comments off

I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THIS GRILL TOPPER! – SAT Press …

January 18, 2017 – Amazon customer says they were “blown away” by Clear Choice’s basket for grilling vegetables. See more of the Verified Purchase Amazon review here:

“Wow. I was blown away when this arrived in the mail. I didn’t read the grill basket description too closely. After we ordered it, I looked at a few in store and figured I had a good handle on what we would receive. This basket is way better than the standard ones you might get at a big box store.

First off, it is heavy. It is solid and built to last. Many of the ones I saw in stores were pretty flimsy. Second, this basket is ginormous. It is much larger than any of the ones I saw on the shelf. I put a full head of cauliflower in the basket to try and show how much this can hold. The non stick finish is also really nice and works quite well. The ones I saw in person at the store were a plain silver finish.

I’ve been using this to grill up veggies. The basket just fits our small charcoal grill. If it was any bigger, I wouldn’t be able to put the cover on. We toss the veggies with garlic, olive oil and spices and then pop it on the grill. The veggies don’t stick at all and we end up with an amazing side as long as we keep tossing them every few minutes so they don’t burn. Be careful because the basket gets hot and there isn’t much in the way of handles for moving it around. I’m not sure how they could incorporate handles or a way to move this, but that would be my only negative.

I’ve been telling all my friends about this basket. It is definitely a great buy!”

For those that are tired of tired of having grilled food fall through the grates of the grill, but disappointed that a grill basket never looks the same after it’s been used even one time, Clear Choice has developed a product that is surprisingly different.

Competitive products often feel flimsy and can even cause finger and hand cuts due to sharp edges, slits, and holes. Quality design and manufacturing sets this outdoor accessory apart.

See the complete review and more valuable product information on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-Chicken-Clear-Choice-Cookware/dp/B0127TAPOM

About Us

Clear Choice Cookware manufactures and sells products for the home and kitchen and the lawn and garden marketplaces.  Their products are designed to promote health, safety, natural flavors, enjoyment, and ease of use. They are currently serving North America and Europe.

Media Contact Information

Roy Dickan

Home

support@clearchoice.biz

PO Box 5202

Cary, NC 27512-5202

919-589-3580

Category: Cookware Pans  Tags: ,  Comments off

I WAS BLOWN AWAY BY THIS GRILL TOPPER! – SAT Press …

January 18, 2017 – Amazon customer says they were “blown away” by Clear Choice’s basket for grilling vegetables. See more of the Verified Purchase Amazon review here:

“Wow. I was blown away when this arrived in the mail. I didn’t read the grill basket description too closely. After we ordered it, I looked at a few in store and figured I had a good handle on what we would receive. This basket is way better than the standard ones you might get at a big box store.

First off, it is heavy. It is solid and built to last. Many of the ones I saw in stores were pretty flimsy. Second, this basket is ginormous. It is much larger than any of the ones I saw on the shelf. I put a full head of cauliflower in the basket to try and show how much this can hold. The non stick finish is also really nice and works quite well. The ones I saw in person at the store were a plain silver finish.

I’ve been using this to grill up veggies. The basket just fits our small charcoal grill. If it was any bigger, I wouldn’t be able to put the cover on. We toss the veggies with garlic, olive oil and spices and then pop it on the grill. The veggies don’t stick at all and we end up with an amazing side as long as we keep tossing them every few minutes so they don’t burn. Be careful because the basket gets hot and there isn’t much in the way of handles for moving it around. I’m not sure how they could incorporate handles or a way to move this, but that would be my only negative.

I’ve been telling all my friends about this basket. It is definitely a great buy!”

For those that are tired of tired of having grilled food fall through the grates of the grill, but disappointed that a grill basket never looks the same after it’s been used even one time, Clear Choice has developed a product that is surprisingly different.

Competitive products often feel flimsy and can even cause finger and hand cuts due to sharp edges, slits, and holes. Quality design and manufacturing sets this outdoor accessory apart.

See the complete review and more valuable product information on Amazon.

https://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-Chicken-Clear-Choice-Cookware/dp/B0127TAPOM

About Us

Clear Choice Cookware manufactures and sells products for the home and kitchen and the lawn and garden marketplaces.  Their products are designed to promote health, safety, natural flavors, enjoyment, and ease of use. They are currently serving North America and Europe.

Media Contact Information

Roy Dickan

Home

support@clearchoice.biz

PO Box 5202

Cary, NC 27512-5202

919-589-3580

Category: Cookware Pans  Tags: ,  Comments off

Annual ‘Empty Bowls’ event planned for February



Source

| Contributed by the Dean Road Ceramics Studio

Potters mold hand-crafted bowls for the ceramic studio’s upcoming Empty Bowls fundraiser.




On February 25th, many Auburn community members will be switching out their typical dinnerware for a handmade, one of a kind ceramic bowl. The fourth annual Auburn-Opelika Empty Bowls fundraising event will be taking place that day at the Jan Dempsey Community Art Center.

Empty Bowls benefits the Food Bank of East Alabama and works to spread awareness of hunger in our local community.

For a $20 donation, participants will enjoy a sit down dinner, served in a locally made bowl that they get to take home, as well as live music entertainment and a raffle. The event will begin at 5 p.m. and end at 7 p.m.

Almost $20,000 has been raised by Empty Bowls over the past four years. Last year’s event alone raised over $12,000. According to Martha Henk, director of the Food Bank of East Alabama, these donations have made a lasting impact. “By acquiring food through local

donations and the national food bank network, every dollar given to the Food Bank enables us to distribute the equivalent of 7 meals to people in need—so each bowl represents 140 meals,” said Henk.

Henk keeps her bowl from last year’s event on her desk as a constant reminder of the people she is working to help. “The empty bowl reminds me of some of the people I have met through my work at the Food Bank: the little girl who tells us that her father suggested she drink lots of water so that her stomach didn’t feel as empty, the mother who said that she sends her children out to play at mealtime hoping that a neighbor will invite them for dinner, the elderly woman in Opelika who was eating canned cat food mixed with rice because she had nothing else to eat, the man who walked into the Community Market after two days without eating and he simply stopped in the aisles to eat right away. These people are who Empty Bowls helps.”

“A lot of times there is a common misconception that there is nobody suffering right around us. You’d be surprised how many people are in need and are either ashamed or don’t really want to admit that they are struggling with food issues paycheck to paycheck. We’re happy to do what we can to help those that could be our neighbors,” said Cari Cleckler, an arts education specialist for the City of Auburn. Cleckler began working with Empty Bowls as an auburn student by making bowls and is now one of the main planners of the event.

Cleckler was drawn to Empty Bowls due to her love of art and the auburn community. She loves that so many organizations in the Auburn community join together to put on this event. “One person can make a small difference but all of us can make a huge difference working together”

Local artists have been working for the past year to create the bowls that event guests will be taking home. “A lot of them (the bowls) are pretty unique. Many of them have intricate decorations and there are a lot of sculpted pieces too. It’s not just your run of the mill bowl that you can go get at Target, it’s a one of a kind, handmade work of art. It’s not something you can go buy in a series, you have the original,” said Cleckler.

Along with a handmade bowl, guests will enjoy live music by The Electric Rangers and Dylan Williams. Martha Henk and other representatives from the food bank will also be speaking. All food served at the event will be donated by local restaurants.

Tickets are on sale now at the Dean Road Recreation Center for $20. Only 200 seats are available, so tickets may sell out quickly. For those unable to purchase a ticket, volunteers are welcome at the event.

On the following Monday after Empty Bowls, February 27th, there will be a second opportunity to come in and purchase a bowl created by local artists. This will take place at the same location as Empty Bowls.

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