Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Dinner c/o Cascade Lodge

I debated whether to suggest going out or staying in to L. and Fat T. for our Saturday evening meal. Nothing wrong with home cooking, nothing at all. But, I think it's pretty clear that I do love me my dining out experiences. So it shouldn't come as much of surprise that I chose to suggest going out, and going out to Cascade Lodge. I had gone there once before with M., A. and A. and had thought that it was enough of an experience to intrigue and satisfy L. and Fat T. That and I just wanted to go.
So Cascade Lodge has been around for quite some time. According to its own creation myth, it came into being around 1940 and was quite the destination in the 50s and 60s. I think the overall menu and approach to the dining experience hasn't really been updated much since then.  I also think that the lodge has seen more popular days. I'm sure they do pretty well when booking weddings or doing catering gigs, but the building is set up for such a bigger, bustling scene than we found upon our arrival. When you walk in there's an entire downstairs bar area that is closed and has that abandoned feeling that rooms in large houses get when no one ever spends any time in them. The decor is also pretty dated, and I guess that's part of the charm. There is no host/hostess/maitre D. In fact, the entirety of the service staff were two older women who I thought could be sisters, and on occasion, the chef himself. Though I had made a reservation, we were seated not by the windows with a nice country view of a pond, horses and hills but instead right by the kitchen entrance, with a view of a table of senior citizens and a fireplace not currently lit.  This was, as you might have inferred, rather disappointing to me. Once we were seated one of the women asked us what we might like to drink, I said an Old Fashioned, L. asked for a glass of red wine, and T. asked for a beer. Time passed. We hadn't been given menus. So we were waiting both for our drinks and the ability to consider what we wanted to eat. Eventually the woman came back with a tray that seemed to have our three drinks on it, but she then stood by our table, scanning the rest of the restaurant (her back to us) as if she was trying to remember where they were supposed to be delivered. This was kind of funny, but a little worrisome given the fact that the place didn't seem entirely teeming with people. Maybe 10 tables total? In any event, the old fashioned was ok, but not all that special. I don't think they really have a bartender. It also appeared that we had been forgotten as far as bread was concerned, I only know this because the chef rushed out with a basket of quite hot and fresh bread and made a comment about how we should have had it sooner. Throughout the evening the chef would pop up and run around, helping the ladies keep up with the table-side aspect of their menu.
I suggested that we split the Caesar Salad made at the table. Here is the chef doing just that. He had a pretty good banter to him, as harried as he seemed. He mentioned that a former Philly (now I can't remember his name...maybe the really old pitcher guy?) was going to be in the area in the next few weeks and that the Lodge was going to host an event for the player's charity. This made me feel like the place still has a little juice, even if the overall clientele of the joint is decidedly of the 65+ variety..
I accidentally uploaded the wrong photograph. So I'll add an actual photograph of the salad later. It was good, the salad. Crispy lettuce. Nice anchovy bite. Simple, but satisfying.

When it came down to picking a meal, I was torn between the Trout Mediterranean with capers and finished off with a little white wine or the Veal Chop special. I definitely hemmed and hawed. At first I said the trout, but then after L. and T. ordered I reversed that decision and asked for the veal instead. We all laughed about my indecision. The lady said that it was my meal and I should have what I wanted. I wanted veal. A while later, the other lady comes out with the table side cooking tray and asks which one of us ordered the trout. We all looked at one another, confused. I explained that while I at first had been leaning in that direction, I had ultimately chosen to go with the veal but that if it was really an issue I guess I could have the trout. She looked perplexed at this, went back to the kitchen and then returned, again with the cart, and informed me that yes, I'd be having the trout because the veal would take too long to cook and that would ruin my companions' meals. Fair enough. The other lady came around and apologized for the mix up. And it wasn't such a terrible thing that it was worth being snarky or making a scene about, but I really was sad about it.
The pro to this disappointment (because it really was disappointing and surprising given the back and forth and laughter we had shared with the first lady) was that at least we got to see some big flames. That's my trout being cooked.
L. ordered the lamb, which she declared good if overcooked.
Fat T. went with the salmon, which I had a bite of and found entirely serviceable but not overly magical.
Each of our meals were accompanied by ginger men, mashed potatoes, one piece of baby corn, one piece of asparagus and one carrot.
This was a series of photographs of us going to bite the heads off of the men.
This is my trout, which was good, but not transcendent. The flesh was meaty and tender, but even with capers the sauce lacked any real pizazz. Even with added salt, there was something strangely non-descript about it.
Due to the mix up of the main course, we were rewarded with a complimentary piece of torte, which was fine.
I really want to be able to totally sing the praises of this establishment, because its overall atmosphere is very much something I can get behind. That said, the execution of its concept, at least on this particular night, could do with some fine tuning. It seems like they're trying to survive on a shoe-string staff, and in these times, I get that. But I do wonder how much longer the place could survive as it is. Maybe enough customers are regulars who know the servers over years and years, so the mistakes that I couldn't help but notice don't matter at all. There's a risk in that too, as it seems like the majority of the Cascade Lodge's clientele is inching ever higher into their twilight years. Who will replace them when they're gone?

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