Hoping to boost the number of posts on the site, and in thanks to all the Hounds whose posts I read over the past few months, I am happy to report on a delicious meal at Alta on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving.
We are two families, 4 adults and 4 teenagers, who have made it an annual rite to have dinner together each year before going our separate ways for Thanksgiving.
Since starting with the original Payard so many years ago, we've tried to find places that will be fun with a group or will be an interesting experience in one way or another. This year, thanks to the Chowhound community (before the change), we had an extensive list of options and eventually settled on Alta. We hadn't been to a small plates or Mediterranean place and particularly appealing was the option to order The Whole Shebang -- everything on the menu. That would surely be a unique add to the stories we can tell over the years!
The townhouse that houses the restaurant is beautiful, inside and out and a very relaxed dining environment (customers were dressed in all types of attire: from jeans and sneakers to dresses and heels, but few if any men were wearing sportscoats). We were seated immediately upon arrival and settled in, expecting our only decisions to be which cocktails and wine to order. Imagine our disappointment to be told by our server that they wouldn't serve The Whole Shebang to a table with fewer than 9 or 10 people! She assured us that it would be way too much food and that most people order 2 or 3 plates per person. I found that hard to believe, if they are truly small plates, but eventually we quit our grumbling and rolled up our sleeves for the hard work of picking a few dishes each from the extensive menu.
In the end, we totaled 26 plates, plus four desserts, so perhaps the guidelines were right. And in particular, ordering more than one of some dishes was a must. For example, we started with 1 order of the saffron arancini with quail eggs and 3 of the fried goat cheese with honey, and then added one more of each after the first round. Both were delicately fried and all the flavors on the plates worked so well together. Other highlights included grilled octopus, PEI mussels, salmon tartare (got multiple orders and wish we had gotten more), chestnut fettucine, bucheron gnocchi, smoked mozzarella (on skewers with bread), mushrooms (so good, even the kids who don't like mushrooms had some), chicken cigars, lamb meatballs in red pepper sauce and the pork belly. Really, everything we ordered was a winner, though some more than others (e.g. the stuffed grape leaves (2 per plate) and beef sliders (like a mini beef wellington) were fine, but not as noteworthy. Some had interesting textural contrasts that heightened the dish and I thought most of the dishes were visually interesting in addition.
Desserts were two orders of the chocolate peanut butter napoleon, which was impressive visually and taste-wise, and will be a must next time we eat there. The apple crostada was good (especially with the cinnamon ice cream) but not as unique. The goat cheesecake was also very good.
There's an extensive wine list and we really enjoyed two relatively cheap bottles of Rioja, after having cocktails. There were no non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu, and the teens didn't ask for the bar to make anything for them.
The restaurant was full to mostly full, loud but not too loud to have a conversation and had good energy, with plates coming and going, glasses being refilled and attentive servers happy to help as needed.
Overall, it was a delicious and fun night (though the cost adds up quickly, thanks to how many things we wanted to try or get more of). I've already recommended it to some family and friends.
by Jen Wheeler | At Christmas time, there are cookies galore, but true dessert lovers still crave something more substantial...