Last night I drove 20 minutes east of the Hudson to have dinner at the Arlington House in West Sand Lake. Getting there is really easy – take 43 east, go through the little village area of West Sand Lake, pass the quarry thing on the left and the restaurant will be on your left immediately before Quinn’s Motors. Simple – and a beautiful drive on a summer’s night.
From the moment that Steve Barnes mentioned that Rick Weber was now manning the stove at this established restaurant (which, incidentally Rick had originally opened perhaps 10 or so years ago), I’ve been scouring my calendar for a chance to get there. Last night, the stars aligned and the nearly full moon shone down upon me as I headed to West Sand Lake with the thought of clams making my foot heavy on the gas pedal.
The space is time warp quaint – there are lots of tables arranged in various nooks that probably were created during previous times of expansion. I’d love to see the dining area join us in the 21st century, but, honestly, that kind of stuff falls far below food quality on my list of priorities. And the dining room was made exceptionally pleasant by the sincere hospitality of which we were recipients. Now – the important stuff – FOOD!
Rick greeted us with the promise of sending us some things he wanted us to sample. My only request was an order of Little Neck Clams with Arthur Avenue sausage – everything else was at Rick’s whim. Rick has a deft hand with chipotles and these clams were everything I had hoped for – succulent, tender, each bite of clam matched with a bite of sausage which had been sliced lengthwise rather than as a round. Lots of flavors, beautifully balanced and absolutely stimulating to the taste buds.
|look at these beauties!|
Rick complimented the clams with a couple of other seafood items – you know that he spent some time working on Nantucket, right? This man knows fish, respects fish and truly prepares fish with a delicate yet assertive hand. Fantastic. There were so many distinct flavors on this plate that my taste buds have threatened to refuse to acknowledge any other version of this dish. The tomato and corn relish on the plate was studded with basil and the crispness of the chips complimented the tenderness of the shellfish beautifully. Winner!
|lobster and shrimp cakes|
|do you see the HUNKS of lobster?|
The third appetizer that landed with supreme grace on our table was the phyllo-wrapped scallop. I seriously don’t know how it is done – cooking the scallop to perfection while it is nestled in an amazing blanket of creamed leeks and wrapped in gorgeously golden phyllo… I made a vow to never work with phyllo pastry again after an awful experience with it years ago and I have great respect for those who can manage this persnickety dough. This dish was absolutely lovely.
|a love triangle of scallops and leeks|
As you can see, these starters are substantial. One could certainly be more than satisfied with one or two appetizers and a salad without breaking the bank. Or dine with some friends and order a mess of stuff to share. Our table of two, however was beginning to slow down and we elected to finish our meal with a shared appetizer and a pasta. The salad choices made the decision difficult, but we went with the calamari and white bean salad and did not regret our choice. The only thing that would have improved this dish, for my tastes, would have been more beans, please, and a little less dressing. Regardless, I’m not making this at home anytime soon and I’m happy to know where I can go when the craving for a cold and satisfying plate of Italian-style love strikes me.
|try a little tenderness|
The pasta was supremely simple and delicious – Angel Hair with garlic and anchovies . Did I mention I was dining with a friend, not a date? Yeah, garlic!! Yeah, anchovies!! Bring it on…
|pasta and assorted grilled veggies|
The saltiness of the anchovies was balanced by the sweetness of the grilled carrots, beets, red peppers and onions, and I truly felt that my not having pasta recently for no reason other than lack of craving, prepared me for the complete pleasure I received in eating this dish. I’ll even admit to being inspired to make this one at home myself – soon.
Rick wanted us to have the full Weber experience and sent out a piece of sweet potato pie to finish our meal. This isn’t the sort of thing I would expect in the height of summer, but it was delicious – and way lighter than any sweet potato pie I’ve ever experienced. And, seriously, doesn’t everyone
require desire a little sweetness to punctuate a fantastic dinner?
|a substantial dessert lightened by Rick’s gentle hand|
Rick’s food is honest and adventurous and filled with love and enthusiasm for his ingredients and his diners. I am beyond happy that I can indulge myself with food as well prepared as Rick’s, and am already finding excuses to get back there to sample more of his menu. Go East to West Sand Lake and prepare to be pleased by all the Arlington House has to offer. And tell Rick I’ll see him again soon.