I had posted here that my beloved 3 Clock Inn in South Londonderry VT had gone seriously downhill, based on reports from fellow Hounds rather than first-hand experience. Last night I got there in the flesh, so I can report more specifically.
While it's not nearly as dire as reported, it's a far cry from its most recent heyday (which I would place from late 1999 through late spring of 2002). The menu itself seems kind of uninspired in the reading -- apps of oysters on the 1/2, seared foie gras, truffled risotto, wild mushroom bisque, romaine salad with shaved VT cheese; mains of Dover sole, roast rack of lamb, steak au poivre, sautéed duck breast, cassoulet...perhaps these things took on life in 3D, but as evidenced by the mains we chose, this doesn't seem likely.
Before I get to that, though, I want to crow about the appetizer we *did* settle on. I was dining out with my 11-yr-old stepson, who has a pretty adept palate for his age, but raw oysters or foie gras were out of the question. We settled on "Diver Scallops with Green Apple Remoulade". This turned out to be 2 beautiful big scallops, expertly seared so as to be brown and caramelized on the outside and nearly raw, but warm, on the inside. The "garnish" was a quick sauté of shredded fennel bulb (nicely caramelized) with shredded green apple, finished with a dash of reduced heavy cream a small spoonful of caviar and one of fine chopped chives folded in. It was beautiful to look at in its blend of shapes, colors and textures, and the sauce was a kind of flavor kaleidescope of sweet/tart/aromatic/salty. We soaked up every last bit of the sauce with our bread, and only then did I tell Boy that he'd just eaten his first caviar.
For entrées, Boy had a "Lobster Pot Pie" and I had the braised lamb shank. The pot pie was actually a disc of puff pastry over which was spooned a melange of tender sweet lobster meat and vegetables in a vermouthy cream sauce. Very well prepared but a little on the pedestrian side with its peas, corn, carrots and onions. I guess the shiitake mushrooms were a nod to modernity.
My lamb shank was, I think, the victim of inauspicious reheating which did nothing to improve its lackluster braise. I like a lamb shank that's unctious and winey and tender enough to eat with a spoon. This one was mostly dry (the underside where it hadn't been exposed to reheating was acceptably gooey) and tasted of not much more than lamb. On the side, however, was a lovely braise of roasted carrots, tomatoes, onions and mushrooms in a delicious lamb sauce. If they had somehow managed to cook the shank in the vegetable braise, they would have been on to something.
I stuck to wines by the glass, starting with a Malbec, which might have been better had it been from a fresh bottle and served in a larger glass. When I ordered a Morvedre as a followup, I requested a larger glass and was rewarded with one of the Spiegelau balloons they reserve for those that order whole bottles. This wine was excellent: round and spicy with notes of black cherry.
We finished by sharing the Warm Valrhona Chocolate Cake, which was just fine, but it's only a chocolate cake, for heaven's sake. And it kept Boy bouncing of the walls til way past his bedtime. There was a Braised Pineapple French Toast that sounded much more interesting, but again, I was at the mercy of an 11-yr-old's palate.
The whole deal ran me just over $100, not including tip. I left a 20, as the service was just as right as it always has been -- pleasant (but not fawning), knowledgeable and accomodating. When Boy thought he might want the lobster soup, but didn't understand the idea of a broth-based lobster soup, the waitress disappeared to the kitchen and returned post-haste with a teacup half-filled with the broth in question (it was delicious, by the way -- fragrant with lobster, tomato and lemongrass -- and perhaps we should have ordered that).
So it wasn't so bad. It's not the over-the-top wonderful place I used to pine for, but it's still good. I'll keep going back, not just because it's the only table in my rural Vermont town.