Glenn – My subtitle for this post would be “Cocktail Madness” or “The Tavern’s Mad Mixologist”; I’ll come back to this later. First, though, we had to ponder a bit whether or not we would attend this Mystery Meet. We had been to The Russell House Tavern before and weren’t planning on returning. On our first visit, the bartender had been sour, curt; she appeared to be annoyed with our questions about the wine-on-tap system the bar uses. Perhaps it was the end of her shift and she had had enough of serving the public for that day. However, it was a different scene in the dining room – our server was more than eager to engage us. We ordered several dishes, including the house-made charcuterie. The food was fine yet not really memorable. The bartender, who could have hooked us into becoming fans, had let us get away. Yet, we’d had such fun times at the first two Mystery Meets that we decide to go for #3. And now we were back – ready to give The Russell House Tavern another try.
Katrin – Say what you will, but I am one of those Bostonians who is reluctant to “cross the River” to dine or drink in Cambridge. So, for me to agree to go back – especially to a restaurant where my previous experience was lackluster at best – says a lot about the draw of Mystery Meet. The cozy private dining room worked out perfectly, especially since this was a larger group than previous Meets. Two long tables allowed for more interaction, and switching seats midway through the meal was a great idea. It was definitely nice to see a few familiar faces, like our host Seth Resler and Heather Brundage, who had been at the Myers + Chang Meet, but also meet some new people for whom this was their first Meet, like blogger Dale Cruse and entrepreneur Andrea Dacayanan. Our waitstaff was super friendly, fast, and pleasant.
Glenn – When I read the evening’s menu, I noticed that a paired cocktail flight was available. When I expressed my interest in the flight, Seth, Mystery Meet impresario and host, said he had asked the restaurant to do something a bit different for the Meet. For me, this was perfectly different. Though this was an idea we had discussed for a Sunday Night Supper Club, I’d never had a dinner with spirits paired with food. These cocktails were well constructed – someone at the bar is a master mixologist. For the most part, the flight worked well. The Rio Reviver, with its accent of Pernod, was dry, a bit herbal and a good foil for the unctuousness of the In House Charcuterie Flight. The martini – classic, I might add – balanced the richness of the Smoked Wild Coho Salmon Cake. The Berkshire Pork Duo was well served by the Vieux Carre. The dessert cocktail was the 1919; it could have been dessert itself rather than the warm chocolate cake with which it didn’t match up. I prefer something with more fruit with chocolate, such as port or Banyuls.
Katrin – The cocktails were incredible, and the bar staff have done a great job in developing an interesting array of specialty drinks. I was relieved to see the cocktail pairing, since the wine list just does not match the cocktail list. It seems some of the bartenders can’t even rustle up enthusiasm for some of the wines. Before dinner when I ordered a glass of the Westport Rivers Rose from the tap, the bartender joked, “Sorry, we don’t have any more of that water with food coloring left. Just kidding!”
Glenn – Each Mystery Meet has had a different format. At Ten Tables, it was a limited a la carte menu; at Myers+Chang, a family-style banquet; and last night at The Russell House Tavern, a set prix-fixe menu. I’m glad we decided to give The Russell House Tavern another try. I enjoyed Chef Michael Scelfo’s take on New American cuisine, but wondered what made this a “tavern” menu. Also, I was impressed with the artistry and care taken in plating the dishes. But I most definitely was hooked with the cocktail flight. A round of applause for the folks behind the bar!
Katrin – All-in-all another fun evening! It sounds like Seth has some new ideas in the works, and it will be fun to see what he has up his sleeve for future Mystery Meets.