Sunday, March 30, 2008

More Dining at Emery's

No, I haven't been around much lately - two hours to work and two hours return, three days a week, has seriously cut into my blogging time. But I do love teaching!

I've also had the opportunity to experience several more meals at Emery's, the restaurant of the North Idaho College Culinary Program. For my third visit to Emery's, I began with a "chicken with veggies" soup. It was okay. It seems to be a staple of the repertoire. For the main course, I settled on chicken marinated with sun-dried tomatoes and peppers, I was delighted to find it moist and flavorful, albeit having but a few diced peppers. Unfortunately it was accompanied by "rosemary, garlic roasted potatoes" which tasted like, yuk!, water. Either they had been over-boiled (my guess) or had spent several days in a steamer drawer.

On this visit the dessert was a chocolate cake with a chocolate buttercream frosting. I know I should have tasted it, but I was just too full (having eaten a croissant from the Pine Street Bakery in Sandpoint, one of the best croissants this side of Paris). The cake looked good, and although I'm not a big dessert eater, I love to make European style pastry (you know, all those yummy, multi-layered kuchen and torte (cakes) that you see in the window of a German or Austrian bakery, or the French cakes, which usually have a more sleek and uncomplicated appearance but still with a flavor to die for). And given how critical I am about buttercreams (I prefer a flavor that is not just butter) I should have tried the cake. Oh well, next time....

On my fifth visit, a friend joined me for lunch. We both had the sauteed shrimp, scallops and cod with a garlic butter sauce, served with rice. It arrived beautifully arranged on a square plate, rice perfectly mounded in the middle with the sauce and fish artfully arranged around the rice and several thinner-than-a-match strips of red and green pepper in two diagonal, off-corner places. It looked beautiful and tasted wonderful! Neither the butter nor the garlic overwhelmed and the fish flavor came through with perfect balance. I could have licked the plate clean.....shamelessly.

The dessert that day, yes, another round eclair, but this one tasted divine. Filled with a chocolate pastry cream that was light and not overly chocolate, it was served on a several lines of chocolate icing and topped with just a sprinkling of powdered sugar. I left wondering if the food was going to be that great from now on since the end of the program was drawing nearer.

And the following week, well, they were closed that week, but last week, I was not disappointed. The roasted garlic and winter squash soup had potential, but was too bland from lack of salt and the roasted garlic overwhelmed a bit. Still, it had promise. The main course, roast pork with mashed potatoes and broccoli was delicious! The pork was moist and had a flavorful herbed crust, mostly cumin, coriander and garlic. The potatoes were mashed with butter and chives and roasted garlic and were so moist that just a bit of the pork pan gravy served as additional, complementary flavor. The broccoli was cooked "al dente" but not too hard. I think I received them at just the right moment from hard to soft. The dessert was a Napoleon, but the crust was too soft, not enough pastry cream filling, and I wasn't crazy about the icing. Oh well, I only tried two bites, but it didn't tempt me further.

Now, before I go on, I have to state that these lunches only cost between $4-8. Yes, that's right, between four and eight dollars, most around the $5 range. Usually one has a choice amongst about 6-8 different items, usually two soups (one often being a "clear" broth) and only one dessert, although if dieting, a sorbet is frequently available. So, I don't really expect homemade sausage, organic ingredients, or grass-fed beef. But these students are doing very good work overall and more than just being a bargain, Emery's offers good food, some of it exceptional. I'm enjoying every lunch....