Monday, June 25, 2007

Beardslee Castle - Little Falls, NY

My wife heard about this renovated castle from a co-worker, who described it as being "too creepy" for her wedding reception. With this type of introduction, and with supporting material from the restaurants website indicating potential spirit activity, we had to check it out!

We invited another couple from the neighborhood, and off we went to Little Falls, which is about an hour away from our home. Preliminary contact with the establishment led me to believe that this was a fancier venue than our normal dining location, and we thus took the trouble to dress a tad more carefully than the attire we usually favor.

The outside of the building does indeed resemble the popular vision of a castle, with a stone facade and heavily timbered door. The illusion is somewhat spoiled by the significant amount of cars parked right up to the front steps, however. The large entrance leads one right into the main dining room on the first floor, and we were politely greeted and shown to a table. While the environment was clean and generally well-maintained, some aspects of the set-up belied the upscale impression I had formed of the place.

Menus were printed on loose sheets of paper, presumably to convey an illusory spontaneity. Prices for various meat, fish and poultry items range from the high teens to low thirties. The menu also features several vegan dishes, for those so inclined. The first item we received was bread, served in the form of small flat stale cold squares. This was coupled to small dishes of humus (somewhat past its prime) and butter laden with chives.

Our friends selected chicken breast with spinach and feta cheese (also chosen by my wife) and walnut-crusted pork medallions. I selected the scottish salmon. The wine and beer list carries items of local origin, and so we all wound up drinking Utica Club beer, which provided much entertainment.

Salads came with all the dishes we had ordered, and these were served shortly after we ordered. In general, these were fine, with a wide variety of dressings to choose from. After a sizable delay (approximately 1 hour), our entrees arrived. I'd like to say that it was worth the wait, but regrettably the fare was just of average quality and preparation, although portion size was satisfactory. My salmon chunk was rather homogeneous, and somewhat overdone. This dish came with a strange mixture of linguini and rice, as well as a salsa concotion of corn and tomato shavings. My dining companions seemed generally satisfied with their orders, however. The less-than-stellar service was perhaps attibutable to the noisy wedding reception taking place on the second floor, but I'm not convinced.

After the main course was completed, we decided to order dessert. Our friends had death-by-chocolate and carrot cake. My wife and I had banana madness and death-by-chocolate (this last was simply chocolate cake with raspberry sauce swirled over it). All desserts tasted good, and were of sufficient freshness to please. We received our check (for $120), paid cash, and got up from the table.

After paying, we decided to look around the establishment. The basement, locus of spirit activity and referred to as the "dungeon", was hugely disappointing. In different hands, this space could be redolent of spookiness, whereas here it harkened back to the basement of my college dorm. All in all, the shabbiness of the place contradicted the allure promulgated on the establishments web site.

Bottom Line: unless you live right next door, and feel like throwing your money away for average quality food, don't bother. There are many equivalent restaurants in the capital district, and many more that surpass it. If the atmosphere had been appropriately managed, that would have made up for a lot, but that definitely wasn't the case here.