I was very excited several weeks ago to learn of a new spot in Flagstaff. Let's face it, we don't have a lot of good choices for eating in this area. Even more pleased when friends came back with reports of a good dinner and a very impressive wine list. I think usually a place should be open for several months before being reviewed, but after my lunch today, there are some things I just want to get mentioned.
On the spur of the moment I stopped in last week. Was greeted by pleasant hostess and asked whether inside or outside. I opted for anywhere convenient, just away from the boistrous table right in front. She took me to table in middle room and as I was about to sit, a guy in black bruskly yelled. WE'RE CLOSED. When I asked the hostess their hours, she said lunch 11 to 2 and it was now eight minutes after. OK, I can understand not wanting to take any new tables, but how about a "we're sorry, but you've missed us - please try again." More on this later.
I did try again. Saw on their menu they offered Artisanal Cheese Selections, something one rarely finds here, so I was especially keen to return. Stopped in again today, just a few minutes after noon. A rather awkward and very small reception area, but seated right away in the front room - seating perhaps 20, another 12 at the bar - 3 tables in middle room - and than a very large outdoor area with umbrella tables. The room has a somewhat unfinished feel - raw bricks, very white walls, raw wood. But the seating was very comfortable. Started off with a martini - lovely large stems - waitress arrives at table with shaker - another nice touch - and then emptys shaker into glass leaving me with half a martini. Perhaps another shot of alcohol, since this is a $9.50 drink!
I believe a good test for any restaurant with aspirations to fine dining is how they handle their burger. Brix did fairly well. A Grilled Angus Burger, with grilled red onions, and whole-grain mustard aoili was perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of a very tasty aoili Alas, bun while toasted, didn't seem very fresh and the frites were beyond limp - perhaps sitting around too long? Served with a chipotle ketchup which was very tasty. $9.50. With this a glass of Edmeades Zinfandel - $9. A very extensive and impressive wine list, with at least 30 wines available by the glass. And the appropriate glassware for each wine. A nicety that one doesn't mind paying a bit more for. And while the wine list was extensive, it was very difficult to read, a font used that was not very legible, and very light on ink. How do the older raisins fare, especially in the evening?
The Cheese Course - Eleven to choose from - oh, happy day! 3 for $9 or 5 for $13. I had the Black Mesa Farms Goat Cheese from Snowflake, AZ (who knew!) Delicious, but not as tangy as described. A Mimolette, from France, a firm aged cow's milk cheese, which while glorious in its technicolor orange was rather dry and uninteresting. And lastly, a perfectly ripened Explorateur. One of my favorite triple creams. All nicely presented with poached apricots (a bowl of these would be a killer dessert), and house-made lavosh - this rather a mistake I think ,one cannot spread even the softest of cheeses on it without it crumbling into tiny bits. A stale burger bun would have worked better. With the cheese, a Chalone Pinot Noir - $8.
My server, was very pleasant, and right on with everything, but there was an element to the luncheon experience that really bothered me. Here I was a lone diner. When I arrived there was one other two top; shortly after me, two more deuces arrived; I looked, so I know the outside section was almost empty. It's not a large room so I was aware that there were at least 3 or 4 staff members in and out - mostly sitting at bar - a manager? an owner? a bar tender? It was definately not a busy or rushed lunch time for them. And yet, not once, was my presence even acknowledged by any one other than the server! Not even a "thanks for joining us" from the hostess as I left. You would expect this in a large chain operation perhaps, but in a small locally owned (I assume) place, I would think management would perhaps put a bit more energy in creating a warm, welcoming, and hospitable atmosphere. Especially in a new place. This doesn't cost a cent, and does as much as good food in having repeat business.
One other nit to pick. The background music really annoying, mournful country soft rock. Really not condusive to good eating imho. Nonetheless, inspite of my carping. Do give them a try. They;re located next to the Old Carriage House Antiques on San Francisco.
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