So by now you’ve figured out that we really love to go out to eat. Like reeeeeeaaaaaally. But there is one thing we love even more than that–going out to eat on double dates! Because a meal shared with friends ALWAYS tastes better. It’s true! This time around our double date was with two of our favorite CT foodies and wine lovers, Dave and Kathleen. In talking with Dave, we agreed that since our double date was over the holiday week, we’d pick something outside our normal Stamford/Norwalk comfort zone. Also being a big fan of local/farm to table type restaurants, Dave suggested The Schoolhouse at Cannondale. After one quick look at a sample menu on their website and reading some of the reviews, we were game!
When Danny and I pulled up (after getting a little discombobulated with the directions… it’s kinda tucked away), we fell in love with the cute little schoolhouse building. So quaint and New Englandy. The entry way was adorable too with a little welcome station, coat rack, and an old-school (pun intended) chalk board. Once everyone arrived and were all seated, we opened up the menu to dive in. I was so engaged in conversation that I didn’t even notice the menu was actually personalized with our name on it. (Thank you Kathleen for pointing that out!) What a great little surprise, even if our name was spelled wrong. Being in marketing, I’m super appreciative of those little added touches!
The menu was set up into four courses, the fourth being dessert, yum! There were two options for all four courses along with wine pairing suggestions for each. While typically the four of us have been known to polish off a bottle of wine or four (what?), we all opted for the pairings. Why mess with the experts, right? We all went for the parsnip and apple soup with ricotta gnocchi, shaved ham, and chives for the first course. For the second course Kathleen and I went for the celery root ravioli with black trumpet mushrooms and a foie gras (which after reading about how it’s sourced, we will NEVER, EVER eat again) brown butter emulsion while Dave and Danny went with the duck roulade with a root vegetable hash and a sunny side egg. Switching it up in the third course, Kathleen and Danny went for the pork shoulder with cauliflower puree and broccoli rabe, while Dave and I went for the bronzini with saffron risott0 (I aaaalways go for the risotto), preserved tomatoes, fennel, and parsnip chips. And last, but never, ever least, for dessert everyone except me went for the brown butter chestnut cake with mulled red wine, poached blood oranges, eggnog ice cream, and warm chocolate cream, while I went for the wildflower honey panna cotta with gingerbread spiced caramel corn, star anise honey, and earl grey sorbet. PHEW! As I’m sure you can imagine, we were so excited to dig in and were all convinced we were in for the treat of a lifetime.
So before I get into the details of any particular dish, let me get to the point of why the headline of this post sounds like things didn’t really go the way we were all expecting. (It’s about time, right?) When you’re going to a restaurant as expensive as The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, that also happens to be all about local, fresh, farm food, you have certain grand expectations of perfection. Perfect service, perfectly cooked food, and perfectly seasoned flavors. Now, while everything was generally good, they pretty much just missed the mark across the board. The biggest issue was that most of the food was lukewarm / room temperature. A HUGE pet peeve of mine. I like my food piping hot. It not only tastes better that way, but it implies freshness. Then, in general, everything was just a little off–too seasoned, or not seasoned enough, over cooked, a little too fatty, etc. As example, a TRUE test of a chef’s skill is his/her risotto. If they can rock a risotto, they can usually rock everything else. But like many places out there, the risotto was overcooked.
And lastly, the service. Danny and I have been to enough fancy-schmancy restaurants to know the more you spend, the more you expect the service to be outstanding. This just wasn’t. With a little too much time between courses and at least 4 different waiters but not one single person asking us if everything was ok or if we needed anything… nothing. Just waiter after waiter dropping our food off and walking away. I suppose it could’ve been worse, like if the waiter asked each of us who ordered what at each course (OMG I hate that), but really, at this type of place, they should have been borderline annoyingly present.
So, now that I put it all out there, a few more details about the food. As I mentioned before, everything was good… just not that good. The parsnip and apple soup was creamy with a nice, smooth consistency, but just a tad bland, no particular notes of any one thing that stood out, all just pretty much in the same palette range. Now, Dave and Danny said the duck was actually very good other than being cold. Perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned, and delicious with the yolk running all over it. But as for the raviolis, well, they too were room temperature, but the flavor was actually quite nice. Again, nothing really interesting on the palette, just an overall good taste. Moving on to the bronzini, this was cooked nicely… flakey, not too fishy so I knew it was fresh, but it was definitely too salty. And as I mentioned the risotto was overcooked, though the flavor was nice. (How could you not love saffron?) As for the last course, well, this is where The Schoolhouse at Cannondale really excelled. The group raved about the chestnut cake and egg nog ice cream saying it was the perfect winter treat and my panna cotta was quite tasty with the spicy gingerbread balanced by the smooth earl grey tea sorbet. YUM! And, I do have to say whomever chose the wine pairings did do a good job on the flavor pairing, especially the Pares Balta from Cava, Spain with the parsnip soup and the Pie de Palo Viognier from Mendoza, Argentina with the ravioli. The light whites complemented the heavier creamy dishes very well. I am, however, incredibly disappointed in the low quality of the wines they chose, most running at about $10 a bottle retail, which for a classy restaurant, is pretty silly.
I have to say, it actually makes me kind of sad to have to write a ho-hum review of The Schoolhouse at Cannondale. (I’m so emotionally invested in my food experiences, ha!) I had such high expectations for the place based on the concept and the buzz. I do truly believe that this place holds sooooo much potential and with some refinement this place could easily go from decent to fantastic. But for now, we’re going to have to go with good, but not nearly good enough at 3 noms and a whopping 4 $$$$. I’d say, if you’re going to spend this much bling, there are many many better options in our area.
Cost: $$$$The Schoolhouse at Cannondale Website: http://www.theschoolhouseatcannondale.com Address: 34 Cannon Road Wilton, CT, 06897 Hours: Wed – Thurs: 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm Fri – Sat: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm Sun: 10:00 am – 3:00 pm Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Schoolhouse-At-Cannondale/195679980340