Dinner on Tap

tap-room

The Tap Room Grill

This restaurant sits on a high incline just before an underpass at 2823 Boston Road in Wilbraham, MA. The Saturday night dining pilgrims, AKA one husband, a sister-in-law, a son, and I decided to pay a visit on October 15. We had been there before and thought the experience worth a second try. As it was the last time, the dining room was virtually empty, with one couple finishing whatever it was they had ordered. We were told to seat ourselves, and so we marched across the wide room to a booth along the back wall. We bypassed the outside seating since it was quite already dark this autumn night.

We were handed menus by the hostess and leaned in to the light to try to discern the selections. The overhead lamps were dimmed to create an intimate atmosphere although I found it a bit intimidating since I had to fight the gloom to peruse my options. While we waited, a young, weary server came to take our drink orders. While most of my party chose to have water and cola, I usually relax with a glass of wine while I’m trying to make up my mind between surf and turf. My cabernet was delivered in a large goblet with the required four ounces, but the liquid seemed lost as it sloshed around at the bottom of the glass, much like a child whose pants are too big.  I compensated by taking tiny sips.

My husband ordered sea scallops, my son the chicken wings and French onion soup, and my sister-in-law chose the drunken chicken, more intrigued by the name than the actual desire for fowl. I asked for the fish and chips. While engaging in some before meal chit chat, we noticed a parade of casually dressed, bearded musicians carrying various instruments. Since they headed toward the pub area, we assumed that the real action was in the bar, our suspicions confirmed by the raucous laughter coming from behind the wall to which our booth was attached. While we languished in the rather Spartan, dark dining room, there was quite a party going on in the next room. You are probably wondering why we didn’t join them. Well, we are not party type of people; we just listen and live vicariously through the good times of those around us. But then, we were lured to look around the corner and take a peek at the teeming mass of celebration seekers before the server came with our food. I should add here that we were invited to the next comedy show that was coming up and reminded via a chalkboard that they do feature karaoke on occasion, but I couldn’t get anyone in my party interested. As a public service, I myself, do not sing.

My husband and son declared their dinners quite satisfactory while my sister-in-law raved about the virtues of her intoxicated hen. She claimed that the meat rolled off the bone for easy consumption. It was served with mashed potato and a small mound of seasonal squash and zucchini. I wondered how she knew which of the three offerings she was actually eating in the shadows.

My fish and chips I would say met the “all right” standard. They weren’t bad, but then the breaded triangles of cod have been done better in other places. The chips were thin, deep fried potatoes that were again “all right,” although my husband seemed to enjoy the same fries that were on his plate with the scallops.

This is a good place to go for fairly priced dinners in an atmosphere that is muted both in noise and light (unless you go beyond the pub wall), perfect for marriage proposals or hiding from law enforcement.

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Take 5 – Agawam, MA

Take 5 - Agawam

Take Five

We visited this Agawam staple last Saturday for a change of pace from the burger-based places we frequent during our weekday excursions. Take Five is one of the few restaurants in the area that still offer a full-bodied salad bar, complete with cheese chunks, bacon bits, and homemade croutons. We were immediately seated in the less
than crowded dining room. This is another one of those long-lasting establishments that appears to have a diminished clientele of late. My husband, Jerry, my sister-in-law, Joan (Yes, they’re twins), and I got tucked into a side booth and perused the menu. All those old familiar options were still listed, and two of us decided to go against the Italian trend to order beef. My steak was done medium-well, the way I like it, but I did ask if I could swap out  the potato for a vegetable and was given a choice of broccoli, broccoli, or broccoli. I took the broccoli. My husband chose the prime rib, a hearty piece of meat that he declared quite satisfactory, and Joan decided on the eggplant Parmesan. Her large portion of marinara-covered, fried eggplant was so generous that she took over half of it home to finish another day. We were happy to see that the Take Five tradition of serving a homemade soup and crusty bread before the meal was still in place. Unfortunately for my sense of getting the most for my money, that night the selection was clam chowder, which is certainly not my favorite. This was good for my stomach because otherwise, I’m not sure where I would have found room for all those items I piled on my salad plate had I slurped down a bowl of soup. (I have nothing against clam chowder in particular; I just boycott anything that swims – possible exceptions include items served during Lenten Fridays.)  After dinner, my sister-in-law announced that Take Five was a good pick for dinner, so if you’re a picky eater, I guess you can take her word for the restaurant’s quality.

“Author Talk” at Hampden Library

IMG_1379         IMG_1385 (1)

Hampden Public Library was a very welcoming venue for us authors. The staff greeted us warmly and the audience was exceptionally receptive as we spoke about our journeys to publication. Once a school house, the  building is still dealing in books, and it seems a very popular gathering place for many of the organizations in town. My fellow writers, M.P. Barker and Lorene Morin, were as impressed with the venue as I was. Michele (M.P.Barker) spoke eloquently about how her first historical novel idea went from her head to the hearts of her readers. If you have not read her two books (A Difficult Boy and Mending Horses), I highly recommend them.My writing partner, the inimitable Lorene Morin, filled our listeners in on our own  rocky road to publication for our first book, A Walk on the Wide Side. I later chimed in about our challenges with the second, Testing the Heart. We always appreciate the interest  we receive from those who come to these events.

I never want to forget to mention how much I value the support of friends and family who continually come to lend support, such as my husband, sister-in-law, children, and son-in-law.

Double dog dare

Cappy              Abby

I walked the dogs this morning quite early, as usual. (Let us call them Little Killer and Cujo.) I prefer to march them out into the neighborhood before people arise or under cover of night. The reason for this is that one of them, a Cairn Terrier, is the bad boy of the county. He sees it as his duty to bark, snarl, snap, and terrorize every bird, squirrel, worm, leaf, and stray paper cup that might move near his path. Heaven forbid that a car approaches. He saves his auto-lunge for this event, growling and springing forward in an attempt to give chase. Fortunately, I usually have a tight hold on his leash so that he does not get the opportunity to give pursuit to every compact or SUV in the “hood.” I have often asked him what he would do with a Honda if he actually caught it, but he doesn’t seem to think beyond the hunt, if indeed he thinks about his actions at all.
One might look upon his behavior and ask, “Why don’t you take him to obedience school?” The answer is that we have done so – three times. We try not to count the first attempt since he failed the class, but we had expert guidance later. The trainer, an experienced dog lover and mentor, actually managed to bring him up to a much higher level of behavior in spite of the fact that he was a “special needs” pooch. We will be eternally grateful for her guidance, but when Cujo gets into the great outdoors, he becomes possessed. I would hate to use the term “demon dog,” but I do believe some evil spell has been cast upon him that is activated by the sound of a car engine. We are working on getting him an exorcism, but in the meantime, we will continue to work on his self-control – and ours in dealing with him.

CJ’s Restaurant – Palmer, MA

CJ's Restaurant - Palmer, MA

March 22nd 2014, my husband and sister-in-law came with me to CJ’s, an old haunt of ours. This well-established restaurant has been in business for decades and used to have a standing room only clientele. This latest visit, however, had us entering a sparsely populated dining room, escorted by an informally clad hostess. We were seated in a booth not too far from the kitchen and the rest rooms, so I’d say the table was conveniently located for all a customer’s needs. Our waitress was extremely friendly, trading joking remarks with us and making interesting comments, which made the visit extremely enjoyable. Although the menu is definitely skewed toward seafood, there were a few leafy and beefy selections. The salads seemed a concoction of commercial bagged fare with a few onion splinters thrown in, the main courses were hearty and plentiful. My husband and his sister, who share a love for many more ocean dwelling food than I do, had scallops and clams, respectively. The fried fish portions were heaped upon the plate in giant, golden mounds. Both claimed that their dinners were more than satisfactory in flavor and portion size. I am much more conservative when it comes to fish, preferring to opt for the baked haddock, which was sprinkled with flavored bread crumbs and cooked just enough to lose the too-fishy taste, but not to the point of dryness. Each entree came with soup or salad and a choice of two other sides, although these side selections were not all that expansive. Overall, the experience was very pleasant, and I would definitely go back. They could, however remove the remnants of the Christmas decorations and spruce the place up a bit to get back those crowds of yesteryear.

Open for business

I hope to inspire someone somewhere either with my written word or banter about local fare. I have a passion to write about what is close to me. I have worked long hours, raised four beautiful children, and have managed to eat daily. I hope to share my creativity, life experience, love of my family, and motherly pallet with the world to read, enjoy and share with everyone else.