Let me begin by saying that I apologize for the awful, awful photos of these plates. I didn’t realize until after I got home that they would all turn out pink due to the fact that I was sitting underneath a heat lamp on the porch of American Seasons.
WHAT I LOVE: The ambiance! Romantic and fabulous! I have been looking forward to dining at American Seasons for some time. Knowing it was going to be a busy Daffodil weekend, I booked well in advance and took a friend. However, I have to be honest, I have been putting off writing this column for days, trying to figure out what exactly to say since I don’t want to be too harsh, yet give it a good review. American Seasons has been in business for a very long time, withstanding change of owners and still providing outstanding food and atmosphere. It is a magical world that lies behind those glass doors and archway of American Seasons and once inside you are transformed into another place. The lighting is wonderful with strings of simple bulbs across the covered patio scattered with wooden tables and metal chairs. Placed in the center of each table is a simple wide and shallow tin can with a candle surrounded by a glass globe and a white pillar candle providing sufficient light. The heat lamps were also on as it was of course April and a bit chilly. Thank goodness. The main dining room just past the delightful bar hasn’t changed in years and for good reason, it’s perfect. The beautiful well preserved hand painted mural on the walls is stunning and glows with the candle light.
WHAT NEEDS SOME WORK: Service! I arrived a bit earlier than my guest and scanned the menu that was presented to me immediately once I sat down. The waiter, young but eager, was unable to answer some basic questions about the menu. I was stumped. I am sorry to complain here, but staff need to be trained, to be prepped and to know and understand the way a chef will prepare the food when a customer asks a question.
I will admit that although I love food, I don’t know all the terminology used in today’s culinary world. I want to learn and I was hoping the waiter could assist me here. I was wrong. He didn’t know either and excused himself to seek out the answers. What the heck is a vadouvan spice, castelfranco, ras el hanout, sunchoke veloute, ransoms, acacia honey, cavalo nero, fenugreek condiment, chicken ballotine or wilted ramps? Here I was reading a menu and I had no idea what they were offering or how it was cooked. Lesson 1, read, read, read.
I couldn’t believe the items I didn’t know what they were so let me tell you and hopefully this will help you decide what on this menu you want to indulge in.
vadouvan spice – couldn’t find this in Barron’s Food Lover’s Companion book, sorry. Let me know if someone can explain it to me.
Castelfranco – Sorry, couldn’t find this one either
ras el hanout – an exotic and complex Moroccan spice blend that depending on the preparer, can contain up to 50 ingredients
sunchoke veloute – a Jerusalem artichoke white cream sauce (I actually knew this one, I just wanted to see if the waiter did.)
ramsons – apparently this is garlic. Why don’t they just say it’s garlic?
acacia honey – still working on this one
cavalo nero - also known as black kale, black cabbage (Someone please tell the chef that there is as typo on the menu. I believe it’s spelled cavolo.
fenugreek condiment – an aromatic plant known for its pleasant bitter, slightly bitter seed. The leaves are used in salads.
chicken ballotine – meat that has boned, stuffed, rolled and tied in the shape of a bundle.
wilted ramps – wild onions resembling scallions
I understand the need for descriptive verbs on fine dining menus. They need to make it sound fancy for the money they are charging. “Am I over my head here, not understanding the adjectives, will I really enjoy this fancy food or should I bail before I order?” I thought to myself. Just tell me what it is so that I can understand the choices. Don’t make your customer uneasy, uncomfortable or question their intelligence when it comes to food.
The waiter returned and had a few definitions for me and by that time, my dining companion had arrived. For some reason and I have no explanation, I was craving a green salad, but there was none on the menu. So I opted for the scallops and my friend had the slow roasted trout filet. She loves trout and I was looking forward to tasting it, but when it arrived, it was raw. The waiter said it was ceviche. “But that’s not what the menu said” expressed my friend. They removed it quickly as she refuses to eat anything that has not been cooked.
I on the other hand had four scallops, slightly undercooked for $18. Well. So let’s move onto the entrees. My friend chose the Roasted Cod filet, creamed leeks, clams, white wine and parsley broth. A food runner places in front of her a bowl with a piece of fish that, and I am not kidding, 3” x 2” in size on top of what I would guess is the creamed leeks and three of the smallest clams I have ever seen. I on the other hand opted for the Chicken Ballotine, asparagus, Yukon golds, chanterelles, chicken jus. Placed in front of me, I received two small pieces of chicken breast on top of the potatoes and three, yes three pieces of asparagus about 4” long. This was not a ballotine chicken but simply two pieces of chicken leaning against each other on the potatoes. The cod was $32 and the chicken was $33. Chicken at the local store is probably the least expensive protein available to purchase, so you can imagine, I was looking forward to this wonderful ballotine chicken presentation.
What has America come to expect when it comes to that fine dining experience?” How am I going to keep up with my articles with these prices? I refuse to give up, so I will continue down this adventure, still with open eyes and empty stomach to see what I order next.
Rating:1 dish, but I’m sure this will change by mid June.
Dishin’ It Out has a passion for Nantucket food. Would love to hear from you: [email protected]