Monday, November 17, 2008

Taste lives up to its name

Our second night in Burlington, we decided to try someplace new to us – Taste of Burlington, located in an old brick building on the waterfront of Lake Champlain. Of course it was dark when we got there, as well as chilly and rainy, so the view didn’t mean much to us, but the interior was nice enough if not exactly cozy: terracotta coloured walls; bare concrete floors; bare, brushed zinc tabletops with heavy dark wood legs and chairs in the same wood. Nary a linen in sight, save for the napkins. It felt a little chilly and I was glad of my sweater, but the lighting was low and warm, aided by the Christmas lights ringing each of many tall narrow windows.

The menu is equally sparse, but the cocktail menu is extensive, revealing this place’s deep affinity for the bar business. None of us partook in any of the cocktails, however, due to their rather exalted prices ($11 to $12); instead, we shared a bottle of excellent Oregon Pinot Noir between the 4 of us. We could have used another half-bottle but sadly that was not an option (insert plug for more half-bottles available in restaurants here).

Three of us started with salads, the boys option for Caesars while I enjoyed their basic mixed greens and veggies in superlative balsamic vinaigrette. All were fresh, crunchy and of reasonable size for an appetizer. D and I followed up with the priciest item on the short menu of mains, the maple-marinated flank steak served with potatoes, vegetables and a balsamic reduction. It arrived on big square white plates, gorgeously sliced and fanned around crunchy broccoli and nicely roasted mini potatoes. The portions were again quite restrained, which was wonderful. Both of us asked for medium-rare, but mine was closer to rare while D’s was closer to medium. I swapped him some of my redder bits for some of his more cooked ones, and everyone was happy.

Chris went whole hog with the lobster macaroni and cheese, a huge rich portion of curly macaroni that looked, smelled and tasted divine, accompanied by perfect haricots verts. J went with the Vemont cheddar and apple grilled cheese with a salad alongside, and pronounced it very tasty.

D and I shared a dessert because the other two were too full; our pumpkin cheesecake was light yet dense, with a subtle spiciness and smooth mouthfeel, adorned with lightly sweetened real whipped cream (no cans in sight) and a divine burnt-sugar caramel sauce that was too sweet for D; I practically licked the plate. (Note to self: learn to make burnt-sugar caramel sauce.)

Our server was kind in a sort of spacey-artist way, but all orders were correct and water refilled frequently. Pacing was good; the restaurant was mostly empty (it’s low season in Vermont right now) so we felt comfortable staying as long as we liked. We did scoot out as the live band was setting up three feet from J’s ear, though.

All in all, a place I’d return to, provided they change up their rather slim menu seasonally. I’d like to see what they can do with the abundance of summer vegetables and fresh fish available in New England.

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