As we begin this new category of posts, I thought it would be a good idea to give you some insight into how I have come to this point in my life.
Growing up I lived a very quiet country life. Apart from an annual two-week vacation, spent in a rented cabin at Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario, or tent camping at Golden Beach State Park in the Adirondacks, and the occasional trip to visit relatives, our family didn’t travel. Breakfast was cereal, lunch was usually sandwiches, and Mom cooked supper. We drank lots of milk, ate lots of corn and potatoes, and had very little meat. It wasn’t until I met TMWWITW that I was first exposed to eating in a restaurant beyond McDonalds® or Pizza Hut®. This mostly came from her Dad taking us out to various meals when we’d go to visit. Going out on our own was delayed until we finally got to a point in our lives where we actually had a few dollars for non-essentials.
The first truly excellent experience we had was at a very interesting little place way out in the sticks in a town called Leonardsville, NY. There is really nothing there except farms and an eclectic and wonderful place called The Horned Dorset Inn. The owners of this inn have just two locations. One is rural upstate NY, and the other, called The Horned Dorset Primavera, is in Rincón, Puerto Rico. Our dinner at The Horned Dorset set the bar with regard to food quality and level of service for a very long time. Parenthetically, overnight accommodations at the Inn are also very nice and evoke a rustic country feel of days gone by.
Good food-service is anticipatory. The staff is fully aware of your presence and the current state of your environment at all times. At the same time, they are unobtrusive; usually lingering around the edges of the dining area. Upon noting that you have consumed some of your water, for example, they will quietly replenish your supply; if a fork is dropped, another immediately appears. If you so much as look up with a somewhat quizzical look on your face, they seem intuitively to know that you have a question and make themselves available. Even with all this observing and giving of attention, great servers never appear hurried in the least. When they are talking with you or providing something to your table, you get the sense that you are the only people in the restaurant. For this, they deserve to be very well compensated, by the way, but the value and proper use of tipping is perhaps a post for another day.
We had visited The Horned Dorset in celebration of our tenth wedding anniversary (as I recall) and the evening was so perfect that for years it held the high-water mark in our minds with regard to food and service. Several years later we visited again, but the saying “you can’t go back” proved true on this occasion. While it was very good, it could not measure up to that one brief shining moment we had experienced on our first visit. No doubt there was a touch of fairy dust associated with our recollections of that first visit, and yet, we still felt that the service had slipped from its former elevated level. The Horned Dorset Inn is very much worth a visit–and do plan to spend the night if you can.
More to come…