Since this is my first column here I should introduce myself! My name is Peter Cook, otherwise known as the Belligerent Gourmet.
There’s nothing phantom about me, that’s for sure. All the men on my mother’s side were master chefs going back six generations so I’ve grown up around the business and was exposed to it at an early age. My wife is a former restaurant manager and is the Spock to my Kirk. I am a self-described food snob and proud of it.
So what can you expect here? I will give you the unvarnished truth, plain and simple. I will review restaurants around Worcester County and sometimes beyond. Once in a while I may tell some truths about food in general. My columns have never made me any friends and have made at least one enemy but I will never hide the truth and if the owners can’t handle it, too bad! I pay for all of my meals, I am not comped by anyone in any shape or form. When I go to an establishment I do not tell them I am a restaurant reviewer and I shouldn’t have to!
The first on my list is the Black and White Grill on route 31 in Spencer, MA. My wife, son and I have gone here a couple of times in the past because it’s close to us and we liked it. So what could possibly go wrong when we went there recently on a Friday night? Not even God himself could screw this up!
Granted, us going there around 6:00PM on a Friday night was not the best plan but quite frankly any restaurant should be able to handle being busy, after all that’s what they want! Paying customers in the seats! It was crowded and we waited for about fifteen minutes to be seated, which is fine and to be expected at that time. When we were ushered to our table I took a look into the kitchen as I walked by and noticed nobody over the age of 25. Looking back at it now I should have ran for the door right there.
When I review restaurants I look at the big three, atmosphere, service, and food. For service I have never had any complaints at the Black and White. Anyone reading this knows, even if the food and atmosphere are great, if the service is horrible you are leaving dissatisfied, no doubt about it. The service is consistently friendly and attentive. Even on a very busy night our waitress was always around if we needed her and checked on us regularly.
The atmosphere at the Black and White is typical, it’s a little out dated but it’s comfortable and inviting. You feel like you’re in a full scale restaurant like you should feel, not like at Jay’s Twisted Fork where you feel like you’re in a pizza joint.
Now we get to the fun part, the food. I’ve gone there before and had a steak the first time and the chicken and broccoli Alfredo. The steak was thin, I wasn’t impressed with the cut. It was cooked correctly and it wasn’t like I was at 111 Chophouse so I tempered any expectations. The chicken and broccoli Alfredo I had the second time there was simply amazing. This time I ordered the Lobster Casserole. When it came to the table I was shocked. This dish had been cooked by a supernova. Even hell itself has more moisture in it then this dish had left. There’s also a napalm joke in here somewhere.
Considering we had waited a long time for our dinners I wasn’t about to send this thing back, I’d be there for another hour (I don’t use the word meal, it’s insulting. Meal is for corn and oats, thanks). My son’s pizza was good but my wife’s portion of Salmon was so small it would have had Oliver Twist asking for thirds, never mind seconds. I know Salmon is expensive but I also know what the price they are charging can buy me in Paxton. When we brought this to the attention of our waitress she of course offered to redo the meals, I refused stating how busy they were and how we would be easily waiting for another hour. Now at this point I’m sure she went to the manager on duty, discussed it and then came back and should have comped our meals. That didn’t happen. We were offered free desserts, which were so small they wouldn’t have satisfied a five year old. Way to skimp, folks! For her part I tipped her well because it wasn’t her fault that a bunch of inexperienced and under trained youth were running the kitchen and quite frankly couldn’t cook their way out of wet paper bag. It’s Lobster Casserole, folks. It’s not difficult!
So there you have it, a once fine establishment that I liked screwed up and I won’t be returning. So what happened? Clearly there were too many customers and not enough staff. If there were they were doing something wrong. There was likely nobody expediting orders through the kitchen to keep them organized and things quickly got out of hand. My order was left cooking for too long and was completely ruined. Instead of sending that flaming pile of charred garbage to my table it should have been redone once they realized it. Why didn’t anyone see it? Why didn’t someone stop and say, “Hey, this is way over-cooked, re-do it”. The problem is when you have a kitchen full of people that have zero standards it’s get it done and get it out. Where was the experienced chef on hand? If you run a restaurant you don’t ever let your staff send something like that out, never ever.
In conclusion I am sure a lot of people have had a great experiences there but for the Belligerent Gourmet it is one strike and you’re out. Back to Sonoma in Princeton for me, thanks.