Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Roasted My Ass

It's been a while since I've been truly disappointed by a restaurant meal. I've had some fairly meh experiences, but most have been good or even very good. And then we had dinner at Nepenthe Brewing Co

Now before you scold me for expecting anything fancy or chef-fy, I knew from the start that Nepenthe is a local brewery and their tasting room serves grub like burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese. We hadn't been yet, and since we happened to be in the neighborhood, we decided to check it out. Our first matter of business was to order drinks from their IPA-heavy list of interestingly named house brews. I had the Boreal Crypt, a cloudy yellow IPA with the "cold indifference of winter’s cruel grasp." Mr Minx had the clearer and darker Prototype 36--a collab with the Wine Source--listed as a "West Coast IPA" and made with 6 kinds of hops. I'm not a beer connoisseur by any means, but I think both of these brews could be enjoyed even by those who say they don't like IPAs (like hubby, who drank two). Neither of our choices were particularly fruity, nor were they bitter. They were beers. 

Then we went onto to the food.

I hadn't had battered mushrooms since the 80s, when we frequented the fried veggie joint at Harborplace. Squirting fungus napalm singed our palates every time, but we never learned. At Nepenthe, we nibbled our initial 'shroom with trepidation and were thankful not to get burned. The mushrooms themselves were pretty good, but the "bulgogi sauce" made them soggy and super salty, and I saw no use whatsoever for the sprinkle of nutritional yeast on top (a dip of gochujang mayo on the side would have been so much better). For the $12 pricetag on these ten or so small-to-medium button mushrooms, edible gold would have been more apt.

Mr Minx chose for his entree one of the day's specials, a grilled cheese sandwich with pulled pork and pickles. He rather enjoyed it. I declined to try a bite because I was already suffering from dairy overload thanks to our recent Thanksgiving cheese-fest, but I did partake of his fries and their super garlicky aioli dip.

I'm sure you're wondering where the great disappointment comes in. I'm getting to it. It was my entree.

When I perused the menu earlier in the day, I was attracted to the "roasted butternut, acorn, & kabocha squash, toasted couscous, gala apples, & toasted pumpkin seeds on fresh spinach with a creamy poppy seed vinaigrette." Not only was the Oxford comma correctly employed multiple times in that description (be still my heart), but also I love roasted squash. Mr Minx does not, so it's rare when I prepare it at home. I was pretty hungry, so chose to add on a grilled chicken breast (bacon was another option). I couldn't wait to dig into to what I thought would be a masterpiece of seasonal simplicity. What arrived at the table was quite large and indeed attractive. After forcing the dish to pose for the requisite photos, I tried a bite of apple. It was mushy and flavorless, at first reminding me of d'anjou pear (not my fave). Then I took a bite of squash. It didn't look roasted, and it wasn't. Perhaps the squash had been introduced to the oven, decided it was a place it really didn't want to linger, and skipped on over to the microwave for a few short minutes from which it emerged relatively unscathed: crunchy, with none of the expected sweet caramelization. The spinach was fine, as were the couscous and the pepitas. But where was the promised creamy poppy seed vinaigrette? As I look closely at the photo, I can see dark specks on the salad which might be poppy seeds, and some of the greens appear to be moist, but as far as my tastebuds were concerned, there was nary a hint of vinaigrette flavor. Indeed, no seasoning whatsoever. The chicken, on the other hand, was quite salty. Additionally it was overcooked and dry. 

I ate the chicken--dipped into Mr Minx's aioli--and some of the salad, but took most of it home. We consumed it the next morning under a couple of over-medium fried eggs, the yolks of which acted as a dressing of sorts (I also topped mine with a couple spoonsful of chili crisp), but it didn't make the squash or apples any less sad.

Thank goodness for beer.

Nepenthe Brewing Co.
3626 Falls Rd
Baltimore, MD 21211

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on

No comments: