Posts Tagged ‘Salad’

Ad Hoc – Yountville, CA

Thursday, October 9th, 2014 by virginia


Even though I knew we were going to be in Sonoma, not Napa, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to eat at a Thomas Keller restaurant, especially because it’ll probably be years before we’ll be “in the neighborhood” again. I know we have Bouchon Bakery in NYC, but it’s not quite the same as a regular sit-down restaurant. The drive from Healdsburg to Yountville was actually over an hour, but it was a pretty scenic trip past rolling hills of vineyards. While I would have loved to eat at the French Laundry, logistically, and budget-wise, Ad Hoc made more sense for us. Originally we had made a reservation for a party of ten, but our group dwindled down to four, which fortunately was not an issue.

I was actually surprised by the decor of the restaurant when we walked in. I don’t know why, but in my mind, I was picturing something a little more casual and countrified. Instead, it was a beautifully modern space with tall ceilings, large windows, and a contemporary vibe. Even though we had a somewhat early reservation, the place was packed and the atmosphere was hopping.

The menu at Ad Hoc changes every day, but whatever is on the menu that day is what you get. There is usually a salad to start, a main course with the option to add a supplemental dish, a cheese course, and dessert. The meal costs $52, plus an extra supplement cost if you choose to add the supplemental dish, and you get everything. It’s all served family style, with enough portions for everyone at the table to have a healthy serving.

On the night that we dined there, the salad course featured a gorgeous mix of little gem lettuce, shaved fennel, apricots, radishes, pickled red onions, and ricotta, with a chamomile vinaigrette. The gem lettuce, which is similar to baby romaine, was unbelievably fresh, with such a crisp texture and intense lettuce flavor. The radishes fortunately were not too bitter, and the fennel was pretty mild as well. The apricots were a great addition – sweet and juicy, while the dollops of ricotta added a nice creaminess to the greens. We all thought the salad was slightly under-dressed, until we discovered that they had brought us a gravy boat of extra dressing that no one had noticed until we were almost finished eating. Oh well. The vegetables were so fresh anyway that we were sort of glad to have tasted them in all their semi-naked glory.


Salad with little gem lettuce, fennel, apricots, radishes, pickled red onions, and ricotta

The main course was grilled hanger steak, which was nicely browned on the outside and perfectly medium rare on the inside. The steak was topped with wilted mustard greens, fried polenta, bell pepper stew, and turnip agrodolce. The mustard greens were soft but not overcooked, and the slight bitterness of the turnips was counteracted by the sweet bell peppers. My favorite part of the dish, aside from the steak, was the fried polenta, which had a perfectly crisp shell and a creamy center. It was a hearty, homey dish and they definitely didn’t skimp on the meat. We wound up boxing up the leftovers.

Hanger steak

Hanger steak with mustard greens, turnips, bell pepper stew, and fried polenta

The supplemental dish was shrimp scampi, which we added to our meal without hesitation (the additional cost was $16). It was a good call, as the shrimp were perfectly cooked and the pasta was clearly homemade, with chewy strands that clung to the well balanced scampi sauce. The dish wasn’t overly garlicky and had just the right amount of acid.

Shrimp scampi

Shrimp scampi

The cheese course was the Lamb Chopper from Cyprus Grove, a sheep’s milk cheese that has a mild gamey flavor to it. It’s a hard cheese but texturally smooth, and it was served toasted cashews and honey. The sweetness of the honey really brought out the tang of the sheep’s milk. It was a nice palate cleansing course.


Lamb Chopper cheese with honey and cashews

Dessert was ice cream sandwiches with sweet corn ice cream between shortbread cookies, rolled in blackberries. They were impossibly messy (the ice cream squeezed out the back when you bit into the cookies, and the blackberry juice got all over our hands), but they were delicious, whimsical, and just plain fun to eat. The shortbread cookies tasted like sugar cookies, though not too sugary, and the ice cream had a subtle hint of corn flavor. I was hoping to taste more of the corn, but the sandwich was just the perfect amount of sweetness to end the gluttonous meal.

Sweet corn ice cream sandwiches

Sweet corn ice cream sandwiches with blackberries

Immediately after our meal, we had kind of mixed emotions about the dinner at Ad Hoc. The food was really good – seasonal, well prepared, and plentiful. But there was nothing that knocked our socks off. Everything was properly seasoned and tasted great, but it was simple, homey fare, and I think we were expecting something a little more extraordinary from a Thomas Keller restaurant. In hindsight though, it was our own preconceived notions that had us a little disappointed at the end of the meal. Thinking back, we truly did enjoy our meal, and each course was amazing in its own right. The salad was unbelievably fresh, the steak was expertly cooked, as were the sides, the shrimp scampi was nicely balanced,  the cheese course was simple but delicious, and the ice cream sandwiches put smiles on all of our faces. It was a meal I would happily eat again, and a complete bargain considering the quality of the food and the size of the portions. If you’re expecting more composed dishes and creative combinations, then this isn’t the place. But if you’re looking for uncomplicated, straightforward, and perfectly executed food that is also unbelievably tasty, don’t hesitate to make a reservation at Ad Hoc.

Ad Hoc
6476 Washington St.
Yountville, CA

While we would have loved to eat here (French Laundry), which is just down the street, Ad Hoc was still a great restaurant in its own right

While we would have loved to eat here (French Laundry), which is just down the street, we wound up having an amazing meal at Ad Hoc

Molly’s Restaurant & Bar – Hanover, NH

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by virginia

Molly’s was always one of my favorite restaurants when I visited Hanover back during my college years. The menu was broad, the prices inexpensive, and the food good. Plus they had the perfect gimmick for college students – $2 margaritas that were strong and tasty. At first, there was usually a weather-related caveat to the margaritas, ie., $2 until the weather went above XX degrees (there are some cold winters up in NH), $2 while there was snow on the ground, etc. Whenever the weather or temperature reached the threshold, the sign would be crossed out and a new bar was set, which basically meant they always had $2 margaritas. Now, returning a decade later, I was happy to see they did away with the caveats and just offer $2 margaritas all the time on the menu.

While I really wanted to get a margarita for old time’s sake, we had done a bit too much pre-wedding partying the night before and were not in any condition to partake; I stuck with water while Josh had iced tea. I dove into the bread basket and was surprised to see that it was the same exact bread that they had always served – a soft peasant-style loaf with shredded cheese baked into the crust. To be perfectly honest, the bread isn’t great. It’s doughy and dense, and even the cheese can’t save the crust. However, it is the perfect vehicle for the honey butter that comes with it, which is airy and sweet.

Bread with honey butter

Bread with honey butter

I used to crave Molly’s artichoke and spinach dip in college, and so of course we had to order it on this visit. This dip was around well before spinach and artichoke dip became popular and started appearing on all chain restaurant menus. It was also always a more elevated version, with large chunks of artichoke hearts and browned, bubbly cheese, and it used to be served with crostini. When I saw that the dip now came with pita chips, I was worried that it had gone the chain restaurant route and would be chips out of a bag alongside overly-processed spinach dip with little cheese and artichoke. Fortunately, I was wrong. These chips were made from real pita bread and were crispy on the outside but still chewy on the inside. The edges of a few pieces got burned, but there were more than enough chips on the plate. The dip itself was just as I remembered, maybe even better. It’s intensely garlicky with a bit of a peppery kick and lots of gooey cheese, and artichoke is definitely the star of the dip. You need a fork to place the pieces on the pita bread, and the spinach mixed into the dip is more of a garnish. That’s why it’s artichoke and spinach dip, and not the other way around.

Artichoke and spinach dip

Artichoke and spinach dip

Josh go the Express Lunch, which I was also happy to see them still offering. It’s a salad and half a pizza for about $10. Josh picked the caesar salad, which has a lemony and garlicky dressing and tasted exactly as we remembered. However, there wasn’t enough dressing on the salad, which made it a bit bland. The shredded parmesan on top helped a little though.

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

For his half pizza, he chose the Summer Salad, which was new to us. It’s a thin crust pizza brushed with garlic butter and baked with prosciutto, tomatoes, and fontina, and topped with arugula after it comes out of the oven. I’m usually not a fan of baked prosciutto on pizza, but this was cut into small pieces and crisped up in the oven rather than getting chewy. It was hard to see the pizza under the huge pile of arugula though, which was not necessarily a bad thing since we both love arugula, especially when it’s dressed with lemon. Plus the salad helped cut through the richness of the fontina and the garlic butter. It was a pretty good pizza, although I was pushing him to order our old favorite instead, the Got Yer Goat, which is pizza topped with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted garlic, mozzarella, tomato sauce, and basil.

Summer salad pizza

Summer Salad pizza

I was also tempted to try something new from the menu but I went the nostalgic route and ordered my old standby, the chicken avocado sandwich with grilled chicken, bacon, swiss cheese, guacamole, lettuce, and tomato on a brioche roll. I think back then it was served on a roll similar to the bread basket bread but sturdier, and there were slices of avocado rather than guacamole, which made it a messier sandwich. However, I liked this version and found it easy to eat. There’s nothing spectacular about it but the combination is pretty classic and it tastes good. The sandwich comes with fries that are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.

Chicken sandwich

Chicken avocado sandwich with fries

Overall we found that there was still lots to love about Molly’s. The food is almost the same as we remembered, but they’ve also made some menu updates and changes. It does have a bit of a chain restaurant feel to it with its primary focus on salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and burgers, but the dishes are more carefully constructed and prepared, taking quality ingredients into account. The booths in the front are great for people watching on Main Street, and there’s plenty of space in the back room for large groups. It’s definitely a great college town restaurant with reasonable prices and good variety. We’ll definitely be going back the next time we’re in town, hopefully within the next decade.

Molly’s Restaurant & Bar
43 South Main St.

Hanover, NH