A change of pace: A restaurant review

May 4, 2010

Sometimes, I like to change things up, and I would like to get some samples of my writing up here. Please check out my review of The Black Watch Steakhouse here  in Glens Falls, NY.

From the first forkful of braised pork belly until the last remnants of the chocolate cake and Crème Brulee were licked clean, our visit to the soft opening of the Black Watch provided substantial evidence that Chef Jason Baker will almost certainly be successful in his swing for the fences.

Baker, his wife Suzanne and a team of others have opened the restaurant at 21 Glen St. in Glens Falls, in the space formerly occupied by Fiddleheads. The bottom floor is done in dark woods; the newly-added upper level, which is larger, in light woods with a center staircase. The menu is built around local agriculture, and the beef is raised in nearby Washington County. Baker, who previously ran a small restaurant in Greenwich, focused on local ingredients, produces food with a certain zest and vibrancy. The freshness of the food is apparent throughout the meal.

This was only the second night the kitchen was open to customers.  If there was a downside, there was a sense of too much saltiness, especially in some of the steak appetizers, the lamb and the bok choy. But again, that was specific to dishes with ingredients that bring salt with them, such as soy sauce.

But other than that, the food met or exceeded expectations. This is critical at a high-level restaurant where entrees range from $18 to $29.

My dining partner and I started with heavy, crusty rolls served with herbed butter. Our  meal started in earnest with the braised pork belly, which comes with caramelized onion relish, orange emulsion and applewood smoked bacon. This is not something either of us would usually order, but it was a night for experimenting. For me, it was the best, most vibrant dish of the evening and had very little of the expected fatty taste. Even more surprising was the reaction of my companion, for whom this was a huge stretch. She immediately asked for more.

Fortunately, she had the Beef Trio of carpaccio, tartare and black and blue beef, so sharing was easy. She said the tartare, something she likes a great deal, was excellent, while the other two were good, but a touch salty. The black and blue was my favorite.

For my dining partner, the star of the night was one of the most creative pairings of the evening – lobster bisque with pumpkin seed, pumpkin oil and pumpkin butter. It worked perfectly and yes, there were pieces of lobster meat in the bisque. The other soup was corn bisque with white truffle oil and crème fraiche, which was also excellent. An example of the restaurant’s style came when the waitress – who was delightful – offered that the chef suggested stirring the top items into the bisque itself.

Of the four salad choices, two were without lettuce, and that’s where we went. The chilled root vegetable and chevre with fennel pollen, hazelnut and pickled onion, added to the local foods theme and was quite different and refreshing. The fresh mozzarella with balsamic vinegar and basil pulp was excellent, but this diner might have liked something other than the “charred baguette slices” – that’s what the menu says —  which accompanied it.

There are two ways to order dinner, either an entrée or a la carte with choices of steak, potato and vegetable. The rack of lamb entrée came with homemade gnocchi, another vibrant-tasting item, and the signature root vegetables, which were very good.

The other choice for the table, and there was a lot of passing food back and forth, was the ala carte filet mignon with crème fraiche (see a theme?). whipped red bliss potatoes and Asian style baby bok choy. Clearly, the filet needed to be one of the best items of the evening, and it was, being a perfect medium rare and tasting fresh. The potatoes were a victim of the other courses filling up my partner, and the bok choy, while a touch salty, was excellent.

Suzanne Baker, a pastry chef, will make the desserts. The offerings for the opening were crème Brulee and a chocolate cake. Both were excellent, as was the coffee and the tea selection.

We drank ginger ale, and had an appetizer, soup, salad, main meal, coffee and dessert. The total came to $124 before the tip.

There was no doubt in our minds that we would have to try the Black Watch, and now there’s no doubt, when we can, we’ll be back.

The Black Watch Steakhouse is now open for dinner. The menu is here. And the facebook page is here.


There’s always good news

May 2, 2010

I have lined up a freelancing gig for an advertising section for a local weekly, and I will be meeting with the weekend editors at the local daily this week to talk about some freelance work for them as well.

I am getting a list of story ideas ready for another couple of papers. I need to keep working at this.

I am getting close to finishing two resume projects, and I am looking for more opportunities along those lines.

Please pass the word on if you know anyone who needs writing or photography work done.


Working toward the future

May 2, 2010

The days seem to run together sometimes during a job hunt, but I am pretty sure it was Thursday that I had a really good day.

It was a day more about the future than the present. I spent more than five hours, pulling together my teaching application packets for the Internet. I still need to do some actual, physical packets, but there are several sites out there that hold your application materials online and then let you apply for a job with the click of a button. One of them, SchoolSpring.com, also pops your generic cover letter up so you can personalize it. The other, OLAS is used by many of the school districts in New York.

So after slogging through the setup and update process, I applied for 16 jobs in somewhere less than 90 minutes.

I have application in for New York schools, including Moravia, Greater Amsterdam, Duanesburg, Cherry Valley, Pelham, North Salem, Harrison, White Plains, Byram Hills and the Believe High School Network of Brooklyn. Also, South Burlington, Vt., a hospital teaching position in Pembroke, Mass., and two more from Massachusetts, Agawam and Ayer.

I got the polite rejection note from the really cool interview I went on a couple of weeks ago. I still have never heard back from the vast majority of the applications.

I did have a real disappointment this week. Ommegang Brewery was looking for a local representative to handle tastings in the area. I responded right away, but I never heard back, Dang!