So when my wife wanted to take out a very good friend of ours for a little farewell dinner (my wife is leaving for a trip to Europe for a few weeks) and we wanted something really special we decided to visit the Stage House in Scotch Plains, the next town on the west side of Westfield.
The Stage House has a very long tradition as a building and as a classy restaurant. Recently, they introduced everyday $24 two course menus. (With desert you get up to $31 or so). That by itself is not bad considering the quality of the food. On top of that on Tuesday they don't have a corkage fee so you can bring your own wine. (Ok, in this place you better bring something good and worthwhile. They are not snobby at all but if you bring three-buck-chuck the chef may feel a bit insulted.). They will open the wine for you and even give you an ice bucket for the white wine to stay cool. So if you like good food but can't afford to be a big spender, the Stagehouse is still affordable once in a while.
Tonight was a warm spring evening, so outside seating in the patio was perfect. The patio was redone recently and they now have a amazing large outside bar right in the middle of it. Even if you don't want a full dinner, hanging out at the bar for a masterfully mixed drink (and there is an extensive cocktail menu) with a friend or just by yourself to watch people is a cool thing to do.
I would characterize the food at the Stagehouse as Progressive French Continental Fusion. The Prix Fix Menu comes with a variety of interesting appetizers (soups, salads and some other specialties: pick one) and a selection of innovatively composed dishes with a classical heritage. I made the evening a Salmon night:
1) House smoked salmon, pickled fennel, red onion, chive crème fraiche
2) Salmon, sautéed, braised endive, red wine toasted almond risotto, walnut oil, red wine demi
Both were outstanding in all aspects and really sensually enjoyable in the way that you enjoy food with several of your senses, the display, the smell, the texture and the taste. (The sense of hearing is somehow neglected). As I'm not at all a fish person, my positive assessment of this combination should probably count double.
By the way: The almond risotto that came with the entree was the highlight of the dish (and really of the evening). If you like risottos, this was one of the better ones I have ever eaten. My wife had the Yellow Fin Tune which comes with "Blood Orange Risotto" which is equally pleasing. Just having the two risottos as a main dish would be a very pleasant experience. Maybe they should do a risotto tasting night.
There was only one thing that to a degree failed to meet our expectations. The tiramisu was rather basic and a bit disappointing. The dough was a bit dry, fluffy and rather tasteless and somehow it felt like they saved on the mascarpone and their weren't real lady fingers. A tiramisu (in particular in a french restaurant) needs to be rich (yes the real mascarpone and with eggs) and the lady fingers (not just any cake type dough) need to be soaked in a coffee/amaretto mix. Ok, I admit amaretto is probably not the original recipe. Rum or some other appropriate liquor would have been acceptable. But in this the dough was pretty much dry not soak with anything.
For a tiramisu to be REAL, the taste needs to be voluptuous, overwhelming right in your face. It needs to be the closure point of a sumptuous meal. It needs to be able to compete with strong coffee (cappuccino or espresso) and even more it needs to be able to stand up to heavy desert wines. So now you know my - admittedly subject - definition of what makes a tiramisu great. If you know a place where I can get exactly like that, let me know. Please!
After an - almost - perfect dinner we are all in a very good mood and go home happy. Isn't life great?: Good food, Good wine, Good friends enjoying a nice warm spring evening.
Signing Off - The Westfield Blooger