An evening in photos, The Amsterdam, Rhinebeck, NY

I visit a friend in the Rhinebeck/Dutchess County area at least once a year.

Previously, we would spoil ourselves and have a nice meal at Another Fork In The Road.  That restaurant closed unexpectedly during the spring.  However, when one door closes, another one opens.  We had a wonderful meal at The Amsterdam last weekend, when I was in Rhinebeck.

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Housemade rosemary chips.  Very crispy and perfectly addicitive.

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Mushrooms with a soft egg.

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Arctic char with fingerling potatoes, grilled bok choy, grilled scallions and green goddess dressing.  In my previous post, I mentioned grilled scallions.  This is what I was referencing.  I could find no faults with this dish.

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Someone at my table ordered from the specials menu, short ribs braised in red wine.  Overall flavor was well received, but there was a comment that the ribs were not as fork tender as it should have been.

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Honey cakes for dessert.  They were delicious and not a monstrous size.

The photos aren’t even everything that was ordered for our table.  We ended up with some leftovers, which I in turn used to make a posh breakfast: toast with grilled green beans, mushrooms, and mixed nuts.  I am determined to make something like this again in my home kitchen on a weekend where I am feeling decadent.

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If you ever find yourself in Rhinebeck, NY, you should swing by The Amsterdam for a bite or two or ten.  (^_~)

restaurant week, Grotto review


Carroza – Pan toasted buffalo mozzarella, Red bell peppers, Baby spinach, Small tomatoes, Black olives, Capers

Insalata – Baby arugula, Poached pears, Parma prosciutto, Reggiano parmesan, Lemon

Zucca –  Sweet potato ravioli, Reggiano parmesan, Brown butter, Sage, Amaretti

Spinaci – Baby spinach, Beets, Walnuts, Goat cheese, Raspberry vinaigrette

Zuppa – Garlic and black truffle soup, Parmesan, Toasted bread crumbs

Fonduta – Fontina cheese fondue, Beef tenderloin, Aged Balsamic, Truffle oil, Portobello mushrooms

Mare – Grilled calamari, White beans, Peppers, Greens, Lemon

Cavatelle –  House prepared ricotta pasta, Sausage, Peas, Mushrooms, Pancetta, Cream


Osso Buco – Slow braised lamb, Stuffed red bell pepper, Braising sauce

Mattone  – Pan roasted all natural chicken, Risotto, Wild Mushrooms, Chicken jus

Carne – Grilled beef tenderloin, Reggiano risotto, Asparagus, Red wine

Zafferano – Crab ravioli, Asparagus, Almonds, Saffron

Pettini – Pan roasted diver scallops “ravioli”, Leeks, Wild mushrooms, Arugula

Spaghetti – Meatballs & Grotto’s insanely fabulous tomato sauce

Gnocchi – Short ribs, Mushrooms, Gorgonzola

Antra – Apple stuffed duck breast, crispy leg, Prosciutto, Dried cherries, Potato gratin, Black truffle, Madeira


Cioccolato – Melting chocolate cake & Vanilla ice cream

Budino – Banana bread pudding, Caramel ice cream, Walnuts Panna Cotta Butterscotch “pudding”, Rum raisins, Soft whipped cream

Tre Ice cream – Vanilla, Chocolate, Caramel

Me: the mozzarella with spinach, the scallops, and the chocolate cake. Stealth Eater: the grilled squid, the chicken, and the chocolate cake. Miss M: the fondue, the duck, and the chocolate cake. Mr. K: the insalata, the duck and the chocolate cake. Miss M took pictures. We were all more than happy and seconds away from food coma by the end of the night.

First impressions? Small and cute. To get there, we walked past Boston Common and turned onto Bowdoin Street. Bowdoin Street is kind of interesting. It’s the Beacon Hill area, but it’s a bit more on the business side of the neighborhood than the residential side. At 7pm on a Monday, it’s a quiet street – you start to wonder if you’re in the right place. Grotto, marked by fairy lights around the entrance, is almost easy to miss with its small stairwell leading to a basement entrance. We walked in, and were all sort of in awe by its size – we thought it’d be a larger restaurant for some reason. Regardless of size, I think we all immediately liked it with its wooden tables, wall to wall red paint, and glowing chandeliers.

Thank goodness for reservations, I highly recommend making some if you want to dine here (it’s that small). We were seated almost immediately, tucked away in a corner, and given our menus (and after our order was taken, we were served with fresh bread and olives in olive oil – the bread reminded me of prezels except softer and spongier).

The restaurant week menu is pretty much Grotto’s normal menu, except with pricing changes, which meant that we had several dishes to pick from (see menu above). Everyone seemed pretty happy with their selections. M loved the fondue and K took a taste. They both thought it was amazing. I took a bite of my sister’s grilled squid – pretty good and much easier to eat than that one time I bought grilled squid at Russo’s (as much as I love Russo’s, that squid made me feel like I was eating some sort of kitchen cleaning solution). I really liked my first course – the mozzarella was sandwiched between something that was either bread or polenta (I couldn’t tell in the dim light and I don’t ever cook polenta). Under my mozzarella sandwich, was baby spinach drizzled with some sort of balsamic vinegar dressing. Oh, it was really delicious. It was special. I did my best to not make a mess, but alas! At least, my table companions aren’t sticklers for etiquette.

The second course? M and K kind of stared at their plates for a bit. M exclaimed “that’s the prosciutto?!”, not because there was anything wrong with it but because they did not skimp on the prosciutto. Not at all.  They were like mini towers of prosciutto.   (Actually, Grotto did not skimp on any of their plates.) Meanwhile, I worked on my dish. The scallops were presented in something vaguely looking like a sandwich (this explains why the word ravioli is in quotes). The top and bottom layer was a large round piece of pasta. In between, the scallops were topped with a lot of arugula, and the sandwich was surrounded by mushrooms (hmm, I couldn’t see or taste the leeks – the mushrooms were dominant). It was really good, but I think I liked my first course better. As I jokingly said to Stealth Eater, the first course put a little twinkle in my eyes. I think I like the chicken presentation best – the chicken sat on top a bed of mushroom risotto, and had a little bouquet of thyme sticking up. Even though it was a lot of food, I think everyone finished their plates.

[edit from Miss M:  “I was too busy eating to mention it, but that thing of prosciutto was actually the duck breast wrapped in prosciutto with apple inside. “]

And of course, we all picked chocolate for dessert. It’s hard to resist and hard to mess up at a fine restaurant. I had to leave my last bite of chocolate on my plate. It’s been two hours since I’ve been home, and I STILL feel like I’m going to explode. I feel a little sorry for that last little bite.

Overall, I’d be happy to recommend Grotto to anyone. Compared to Sel de la Terre (the Awesomesauce of Boston favorite), I guess I’d currently give Sel de la Terre five stars and Grotto four stars. Why? The food is excellent in either location, but the service at Sel de la Terre is very efficient. Your glass of water will never be empty. But if you’re looking for good food in a cozier setting, Grotto is probably the right place. It’s not the end of the world if I need to pour my own water from the large bottle the waitstaff dropped off. I’d love to go again.

Grotto, 37 Bowdoin Street, Boston, 617-227-3434,

~ Mikan

Mikan-san’s Sel De La Terre review

Wednesday night, I went to Sel De La Terre on State Street in Boston with stealth_eater, plumduff and Asano-mama.

First impression? Service was excellent. Our waitress made sure that we were never in want of water or bread. And the bread? Yummy. Asano-mama was addicted to the olive bread while I was fond of the fig bread (and so pretty!). The place is clean and pretty. And somehow, it was never too loud. We got there just before 6:30pm before there was much of a crowd. When we left, it was pretty full. And yet, throughout the dinner, there was no need to yell or talk very loudly to hold a conversation. You can come here in casual clothes or a little dressed up. It’s all good.

The food? Here’s what was ordered:

Stealth_Eater – Flatbread pizza with hummus, olive tapenade, mozzarella, spinach, caramelized onions and bacon $11 (we think it was a lamb bacon). A salad of romaine, endive… I think it was officially the Winter salad of roasted beets, pears, walnuts, red endive and Maytag blue; red wine vinaigrette $10. Rosemary pommes frites $6.50. Vanilla crème brûlée with fresh fruit and homemade cookies $8.95.

Me – The Restaurant Week fixed price menu of $33.08. I selected the forest mushroom soup, braised boneless beef shortribs with olive oil whipped potatoes and sautéed winter vegetables, and chocolate+espresso pots de creme.

Asano-Mama – The Restaurant Week fixed price menu of $33.08. She started with the pate tray, had the shortribs like I did, and finished with chocolate mousse service in phyllo cups. She did, however, order a glass from the specialty drinks list – a lambic/champagne mix.

plumduff – Baked aged goat cheese salad with arugula, pine nuts, red onion and balsamic $10. Oven roasted free range chicken with confit foie gras boudin, fried artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers and chickpea purée; verjus-honey sauce $25.

Food impressions? Everything was yummy. Portions were just right. The mushroom soup was so delicious! A little salty, but that didn’t stop me from wanting more. The whipped potatoes hidden under the short ribs were so light in texture but still very traditional mashed potato-y in flavor. The chocolate cream was very good, more chocolate in flavor than espresso. And Sel De La Terre is known for their short ribs – they braise it until the meat is absolutely tender. You don’t even need a knife to cut it.

I didn’t try the salad, the pate, the goat cheese, or the chocolate mousse cups. Asano-mama seemed to like the pate, cheese, and mousse very much. I think plumduff liked the goat cheese even though it was Asano-mama who finished it. Mmm, the flat bread smelled really good, but the lamb bacon was weird to me. I guess I’m really picky about how lamb is prepared or else it is just too overpowering. I did taste plumduff’s chicken – that was very, very nice. I guess the rosemary french friespommes frites are as legendary as their short ribs, and while they were tasty, my reaction was kind of average. They were good, but they are still just potatoes with rosemary. lol! I guess I don’t understand why someone would gush over it. (I think it was a co-worker who told stealth_eater that the frites were a must.) I’d rather gush over the mushroom soup or the ribs or the desserts.

Speaking of desserts, the creme brulee was awesome. The first time I ever had creme brulee was at Devlin’s, I think. It was an Italian place run by very Irish people, and it was the first time [nickname shall be Blondie] and I had ever hung out together outside of work. And Devlin’s did a very good job of it. Since then, I’ve ordered it at other places, but, seriously, most restaurants can’t get the burnt sugar topping right. Sel De La Terre did, and I was so happy sneaking a few bits off of stealth_eater’s plate. At least, though further away in terms of distance, Sel De La Terre is easier to get to than Devlin’s so it’s nice that if I want to indulge myself on nice desserts, I know know where I can go.

Sel De La Terre also has a small counter when you first enter the location – the boulangerie. In their words:
“At Sel de la Terre we pride ourselves in the unique practices of freshly baked artisan breads, classic French pastries, and house-made charcuterie.

We are committed to the concept of traditional, handcrafted breads; intensely flavored, perfectly textured, with crackling crusts and tender centers. Our bread program is a focus, which consistently receives local praise and accolades including Boston Magazine’s “Best Bread” in Best of Boston 2005. Our bread can be found in our boulangerie, on the tables of our restaurant and in our gourmet sandwiches, as well as at various retail locations and other restaurants throughout the greater Boston area. Some of our favorite bread varieties include homemade country sourdough, black olive, fig and anise, rye, baguette, multi-grain, wheat, brioche and potato breads.

Our retail case highlights a passion for house-made hams, sausages, pâtés and terrines, which we encourage you to enjoy at home with one of our fresh baguettes.”

I’m definitely coming back some time, if only to pick up something at the boulangerie. But I’d like to come back for a meal too. 🙂

It didn’t occur to me that night to bring a camera. Maybe next time. And I’ll post it on the Awesomesauce Eats blog.

The only downside, if they can be counted as such, was the wicker/rattan trash can in the bathroom (I’d rather have a step can even if it’s uglier) and that stealth_eater forgot her umbrella in the umbrella stand. It’s really easy to pass by that stupid umbrella stand, and stealth_eater has a habit of losing things more easily than I do.

Sel de la Terre—c’etait un coup de foudre

*twirls handlebar moustache with glee*

So I think the Awesomesauce is all agreed that Sel de la Terre provides an eminently satisfying meal. We invaded this unsuspecting Long Wharf restaurant yesterday evening and left victorious, full, happy, a bit poorer. Mikan-san and I went for prix fixe while Plumduff and Awesomesaucian-Yet-To-Be-Named went for different plates from around the menu.

The rundown (from what I can remember)–

Plumduff: Eggplant-goat cheese purée with olive oil and toasted black walnuts for starters, Oven roasted free range chicken breast with wild mushroom tart, arugula and sauce Robert (and artichokes, right)?

Awesomesaucian-Yet-To-Be-Named: Rosemary pommes frites as a side, Flatbread pizza with hummus, olive tapenade, mozzarella, spinach, caramelized onions and bacon (crunchy!),  and a very nummy looking salad, but I can’t remember which one it was… and a fantastically delicate creme brulee for dessert.

Mikan-san and I both had very tender shortribs on pureed potato for the main course, her first course was a really savory truffle soup? I think? Mine was a paté platter (YAY!). For dessert she had a chocolate pot and I had some very soft and crunchy chocolatey tarts. I’m drooling just remembering it all!

I’m sure everybody will post with their thoughts on what they ate… just trying to record the menu for posterity!