Dinner in Grass Valley

27 04 2008

We took a night off and went to Grass Valley for an overnight stay and met with some friends the following day. Since we went up the night before (I’d rather travel while I’m still in “work” mode, than get up early on Saturday), we thought, “What a great opportunity to try new restaurants!”

I researched dining choices in this area, and there were PLENTY! There were several cafe style places, and the usual Mexican and Chinese options, family dining as well…pizza chains and so on. Ethnic specific yielded one sushi/Japanese restaurant, one Himalayan (sounded rather like East Indian) and Diego’s…Latin American cuisine. Of the fine dining/bistro set, we opted for Tofanelli’s on W. Main Street.

Tofanelli’s menu looks totally delightful.  With options of steaks, lamb and ahi, we were THERE!  The restaurant is a lovely little place, situated in one of Grass Valley’s historic buildings, it’s narrow and deep, and full of antiquity.  It took a few minutes for us to decide, as the many choices were quite intriguing.  We finally settled on a starter of seafood gazpacho, followed by salads (his dressed with bleu, mine with Poppy Seed) and while Hubster selected the Australian Lamb Shanks, I settled on the Rib Eye combo with sauteed scallops.

I was a little surprised that the salads arrived first, and almost as soon as the order hit the kitchen.  The salads were composed of sweet, crisp Romaine and luscious spring greens.  They were top-dressed with just the right amount of dressing (which was fabulous in both cases), and the salad with bleu was topped with fresh bleu cheese crumbles that erupted from the top and coursed down the sides of the salad…divine!  We ate every morsel and soaked up the remainder of the dressings as well.

From that point on, it’s all downhill.  The sign on the front door stating they were hiring a dinner chef should have been our first clue.

The “starter” arrived next, with an apology, and two spoons.  For gazpacho, it was a little on the sweet side for our tastes, and the addition of lemon (provided) didn’t do much to cut it.  There was no underlying bite, and nothing available to add any zing.  The soup consisted of tomatoes, shrimp, and avocados…there might have been other ingredients in there, but….our entrees arrived before we could really get started with the soup.  That’s a pet peeve…we both despise that.

Sadly, the entrees were no improvement.  The Australian lamb carried the description, “Two lamb shanks, braised and slow cooked in a piquant BBQ style sauce. With garlic mashed potatoes, and vegetables…19.95″  Mexican borego could be described the same way, so…that was Hubster’s choice.  Wrong.  Good description, but…it tasted like standard bottled sauce, and the lamb was tortured into submission of deletable tenderness and presented swimming in a pool of sauce with the sides.  It’s a crime to treat lamb shanks that way.  Incidentally…it was served in a pasta plate…which meant there was no way to separate the lamb or the potatoes from the pool – not puddle, POOL – of sauce.  There must’ve been a full cup of the sauce ladled into the plate.  Why do they do that??  From there, to my rib eye with scallops…  When I ordered, I asked if the chef cooked medium rare as warm-red or warm-pink.  The server had no real idea, but that the steak would be cooked “perfectly.”  Somehow I doubted that. I chose to order my steak rare, and that was the right thing to do.  It came to the table, again, in a deep plate, though not as deep a plate as Hubster’s, a reasonable medium rare, topped with the sauteed scallops, mashed potatoes and a veggie melange.  Apparently they put the liquid from the saute into the plate as well, because everything was in, again, a POOL of liquid.  Apparently “saute” was not a word the chef understood well…because the scallops arrived poached, and it was the poaching liquid that filled my plate. Blech.  The steak was soaking in it, the veggies were swimming, the scallops were atop the steak and no where near the (virtually tasteless) swill.  Sorry.  Again, why?

And when will I get a little Gordon Ramsey moxie and send such plates back to the kitchen with an invitation to attend a cooking school or at least BUY a GOOD cookbook??

Dinner (seafood gazpacho $5.95; Australian lamb shanks $19.95; Rib eye combo $25.95), with 1 cocktail each, came to $68.83 with tax.  I over tipped.  Darn me.  I should have rethought that.  Oh well…not her fault, but she could have checked on us…and yet, she did pack up the left-overs for our dog-and there were plenty!  Would I go back…maybe.  Only after checking the other available places though.  The salad was good enough to recommend, hands down.  The rest…well…no.

Tofanelli’s of Grass Valley….2 whisks….3 if you’re only having a salad!


When will I learn?

25 04 2008

I like food. A lot. Is it so difficult to try to put a plate on a table with food on it that’s edible?

Case in point:

After having a long drawn out doctor’s appointment we determined we’d earned a dinner out. Where to go on a Monday? Neither of us were really in the mood for Chinese or Thai. We’d taken a run out one of the boulevards to see a few places that were new…and not open on a Monday, any Monday. How disappointing. So…that left the “chain gang” and cuisines we weren’t quite up for. I had a yen going for Outback’s Annie Springs Chicken, and Hubster said they could usually do a steak well enough, so that would work for him. One thing about Outback, you sure won’t get a lot of frills on your plate. Meat, side. End of story. Naked. So, there I sit with daydreams of contrasting flavors, honey mustard, smoky bacon and cheese…mmm… One bite pretty much settled that fantasy. The chicken was hockey-puck dry; if there had been honey-mustard involved, it was brief and short-lived. The melty-goodness of a lava flow of cheese wasn’t there either. I should have sent it back, but one has to be able to attract the attention of a “server”; and the food delivery person isn’t your “server.” It’s not like they check with you AFTER you start eating. Hubster’s steak was wonderful. Send the poultry chef HOME. My overall experience this time rates a whopping 1-3/4 whisks, and I won’t hurry back.

Guess I’ve been a little busy…

13 04 2008

It’s not that I haven’t cooked…or eaten out… We’ve done both. It has been a busy couple of weeks though.

Cooking…how about spaghetti for 150? I was ever so disappointed that I had to use a PO for one place, and they didn’t have Italian sausage. Ground beef is ok, but…it’s just not “my” spaghetti that way. Still…it came out ok. Note to self…buy more fennel seed…it’s all used up! No…I didn’t invite 150 of my closest friends over for spaghetti…I made spaghetti, salad and bread for the school’s open house dinner. Then I served it and cleaned up. Yeah…guess I’ve been a little busy… *grin*

Dining out… We had a fabulous pizza at Woodstock’s in Chico. We really like their Mt. Lassen combo. It’s a good thing, we ate it for a couple of days whilst I was doing the school thing. We stopped there after the power shopping trip to pick up all the supplies. We’ll give Woodstock’s 2-1/2 whisks. We actually eat their crust all the way to the end! Friday night I had a medical appt. in Chico, so we dropped in to Sierra Nevada’s Brewpub. Normally we love it. This time, well…maybe it was the choice we made. We selected schnitzel with garlic mashed potatoes, butternut squash and sauteed brussels sprouts. Everything tasted incredibly salty to me. The service was fine…though service folks who know me better would have swooped the plate off the table and brought me something else and not let me say it was “ok.” I rarely make negative commentary to the service staff unless it’s just nasty to my tastes. I know they didn’t do it. Well…an exception is bringing me the wrong food…that I’ll speak to immediately. Sierra Nevada….currently at 3 whisks. It’s been better.

Tonight, it’s ribs…beefy ribs. I’m ready! The heat is ON…and I do mean on. It’s been in the upper 80’s and low 90’s. Go figure…this is only APRIL. Please…not so fast! Spring is looking like it’s going to be all of 2 weeks long and wham! Summer is upon us!